Can Melinda French Gates Revive The Lagging Women’s Movement?

Suddenly, women and girls seem to be invisible.

Women are no longer the top priority even at the Women’s Sports Foundation, which is championing the rights of biological males who identify as female or trans women to participate in women’s sports. This despite science that clearly shows trans males have an unfair advantage over girls and women.

State legislatures are making it impossible for women to obtain abortions that are legal under the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.

Millions of women are struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic, when they disproportionately lost jobs and now face pressure to return to work despite the lack of affordable child care.

So it is more than encouraging that Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, is championing a new $2.1 billion initiative to “to advance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning, and accelerate women’s leadership.”

The initiative was announced at a forum in Paris hosted by the UN Women, the governments of Mexico and France and the Gates Foundation.

$2.1 Billion

In a statement, French Gates observes that “nowhere on earth are women on equal footing with men. Waves of opposition to women’s rights have emerged and structural barriers to gender equality and women’s health still exist.”

“Now is the chance to re-ignite a movement and deliver real change. The beautify of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it,” she states.

According to the Gates Foundation, the Paris event, called the Generation Equality Forum, is the first time since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 that the world has come together “to take ambitious action that will have a transformational impact for women and girls.”

Where the Money Will Go

The new funding includes:

  • $650 million to support women’s empowerment collectives, strengthen the care economy, improve women’s financial inclusion, and reduce barriers to paid work.
  • $1.4 billion to expand options and access to contraceptives and support family planning partners, including UNFPA Supplies Partnership, Family Planning 2030, the Global Financing Facility, and the new Shaping Equitable Market Access for Reproductive Health initiative.
  • #100 million over the next five years (and $230 million over the next ten years) to “accelerate women’s inclusion in leadership roles, primarily in health, law, and economics.” This includes a new fund to dismantle systemic barrier to gender equality and women and girls’ leadership around the world.

The Gates Foundation released new data showing “pandemic-driven inequality is growing at an alarming pace, driven by disruptions to women’s health services, job loses in sectors where women are overrepresented and a sharp increase in caregiving needs and other unpaid work.”

Unemployment for women rose by 9 million in 2020 compared to 2019 and is projected to increase another 2 million in 2021. This pattern is not true for men, who are projected to see unemployment decrease in 2021.

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