Gates Foundation pledges $2.1B for gender equality

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $2.1bn over the next five years to help advance gender equality worldwide, announcing this commitment during the UN Women Generation Equality Forum in Paris.

During the forum’s opening event Wednesday, $40bn in new investments benefitting women and girls were announced, including the $2.1bn commitment from the Gates Foundation, $420m from the Ford Foundation and investment from the World Bank for gender equality programmes in 12 African nations, forum organisers said in a press release.

In a statement Wednesday, the Gates Foundation said its commitment is meant “to advance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning, and accelerate women’s leadership”.

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change,” Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in the statement. “The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We must seize this moment to build a better, more equal future.”

The $2.1bn pledge from the Gates Foundation includes $650m for economic empowerment initiatives, $1.4bn for family planning and health and $100m to accelerate women’s inclusion in leadership roles, the organisation said.

The Generation Equality Forum, which is co-hosted by the governments of France and Mexico, is taking place from Wednesday to Friday and represents the first time in 25 years that advocates, governments, civil society groups and private-sector partners have come together to announce specific pledges and policy actions to advance the interests of women and girls around the world.

The last such gathering was the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Bejing in 1995 and attended by thousands of activists.

From that conference emerged the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, which is still viewed as “the key global policy document on gender equality”, according to UN Women, and has been adopted by 189 countries.

Some 40,000 participants are expected to attend the Generation Equality Forum, which is being held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Melinda French Gates is among the forum’s keynote speakers. She and her husband, Bill Gates, announced they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage last month.

Bill, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, and Melinda, an author and businesswoman, announced their divorce in a joint statement posted to their individual Twitter accounts on May 3. In it, they wrote that they would “continue our work together at the foundation”, but no longer believe they could “grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives”.

Since announcing their divorce, both have continued working with the $50bn foundation, as well as other philanthropic endeavours they contribute to separately.

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