By Sharon Atieno
As part of their commitment at the Generation Equality Forum, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $2.1 billion over the next five years to advance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning, and accelerate women’s leadership.
The forum, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, takes place in Paris from June 30 to July 2, 2021.
“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,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “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 foundation’s $2.1 billion commitment over the next five years will advance activity in three areas: economic empowerment, health and family planning, and accelerating women in leadership.
Economic empowerment will cost $650 million over five years. This funding will support women’s empowerment collectives, strengthen the care economy, improve women’s financial inclusion, and reduce barriers to paid work.
In family planning and health, the foundation will spend $1.4 billion over five years. This reaffirms and expands the foundation’s commitment to family planning and women’s health, with a focus on increasing options and access to contraceptives and support for a network of 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
In accelerating women in leadership, the foundation will spend $100 million over five years or $230 million over 10 years. This is an all-new funding commitment to accelerate women’s inclusion in leadership roles, primarily in health, law, and economics. It includes a contribution to a new fund by Co-Impact that aims to dismantle systemic barriers to gender equality and women and girls’ leadership around the world.
“Gender equality must be at the center of the world’s efforts to make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “Prioritizing gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to fighting poverty and preventable disease. The Generation Equality Forum is an opportunity to hold leaders accountable so that we can ensure that all people, everywhere, have the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives.”
The Gates Foundation also released new data that show pandemic-driven inequality is growing at an alarming pace, driven by disruptions to women’s health services, job losses in sectors where women are overrepresented, and a sharp increase in caregiving needs and other unpaid work. “Ripple effects of the pandemic have conspired to rob women and girls of opportunity,” said French Gates.
“Women and girls already faced unique barriers to their full participation in social and economic life, and the latest data show that the pandemic has only sharpened gender disparities,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation. “Each data point represents a woman fighting for a better future, and this funding reflects our longstanding commitment to support all women in their fight for a fairer and more equal world.”
The forum brings together governments, the private sector, and civil society partners to commit to specific actions and announce financial, political, and programmatic commitments that will accelerate gender equality and advance women’s rights.