The Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it will be committing $2.1 billion to advancing gender equality globally over the next five years. This announcement comes just weeks after co-chairs Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates announced their divorce, and it comes at a time when government officials around the world are gathered in Paris for the Generation Equality Forum, an event that focuses on providing greater opportunities for women and girls worldwide.
"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 said in a 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."
With this $2.1 billion commitment, the Gates Foundation plans to focus on three core areas that are key to advancing gender equality: economic empowerment; family planning and health; and accelerating women's leadership.
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When broken down, the Gates Foundation says that $650 million of this commitment will go toward improving women's financial inclusion and reducing the barriers women face in the workplace and $1.4 billion will go toward increasing access to contraceptives and supporting various family planning organizations. The rest of the money, which includes a $100 million commitment over five years and a $230 million commitment over 10 years, will go toward dismantling systemic barriers women and girls face around the world when trying to enter leadership positions.
"Gender equality must be at the center of the world's efforts to make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals," Bill said in a statement. The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 that need to be achieved by 2030 to make the world more equal for everyone.
"Prioritizing gender equality is not only the right thing to do," added Bill, "it is essential to fighting poverty and preventable disease."
In addition to announcing its $2.1 billion commitment, the Gates Foundation also released data to show just how detrimental the Covid-19 pandemic has been to women's equality around the world. Even as the economy starts to recover, the Gates Foundation reports that 2 million more women are expected to leave the workforce this year, adding to the 13 million who left in 2020. This mass exit is largely due to job loss and caregiving responsibilities that disproportionately fall on women.
"The recession and the early trends of the recovery make the case for action perfectly clear: women face structural barriers that have made them more vulnerable to the pandemic's impacts – and eliminating these barriers will jumpstart the recovery," Melinda wrote in a blog post.
This new commitment to advancing gender equality comes nearly two years after Melinda committed $1 billion to "expand women's power and influence in the United States."
"I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives," Melinda wrote in an op-ed for Time in October 2019. "I believe that women's potential is worth investing in — and the people and organizations working to improve women's lives are, too."
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