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Gates Foundation commits $2.1bn to advance gender equality

As part of the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 announced a commitment of $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.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Gates Foundation. Photo credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The forum takes place in Paris from June 30 to July 2, 2021, bringing 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. Not since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, when 47,000 participants and activists traveled to Beijing, has the world come together to take ambitious action that will have a transformational impact for women and girls.

“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.”

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The forum takes place at a critical inflection point. While we have seen progress over the past quarter century, 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, according to the foundation.

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. Funding includes:

  • Economic Empowerment: $650 million over five years: An expansion of the foundation’s existing work on women’s economic empowerment, this funding will support women’s empowerment collectives, strengthen the care economy, improve women’s financial inclusion, and reduce barriers to paid work.
  • Family Planning and Health: $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.
  • Accelerating Women in Leadership: $100 million over five years / $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.
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“Gender equality must be at the centre of the world’s efforts to make progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “Prioritising 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.

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“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 foundation has been committed to family planning and women’s health since it began more than 20 years ago. For almost a decade, it has been supporting partners around the world to break down structural barriers that women and girls face and to advance women’s economic empowerment. Gender equality is core to the foundation’s work, and the Gender Equality division is focused on accelerating progress toward a more gender-equal world.

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