Gates Foundation commits $2.1 billion to gender equality

The foundation gives about $5bn annually through its philanthropic work

Melinda Gates delivers her speech at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on June 30. AP
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Bill and Melinda Gates’s foundation announced on Wednesday that it would spend $2.1 billion to advance global gender equality.

Private donors, government officials and civil society leaders gathered at the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women in Paris to make financial and political commitments to aid women and girls.

Ms Gates also pledged another $1.4bn for women’s sexual health and reproductive rights.

“When women have the right to access contraceptives, and time and space the births of their children, it leads not just to their empowerment, but to decades and generations of empowerment,” said Ms Gates, a panellist at the summit.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it would spend the money in the next five years on health and family planning programmes, economic empowerment projects and other initiatives.

Advancing gender equality is a core area for the Seattle-based foundation, the largest private charitable group in the US, with an endowment of nearly $50bn.

It gives about $5bn annually through its philanthropic work, but its future and leadership structure have been called into question after Bill and Melinda’s recent divorce.

At the summit, one of the UN’s young champions in Zambia, Yande Banda, was given a standing ovation after her fiery speech calling on world leaders in the room to stand up for better education for girls.

“If you’re with us and if you’re for our future, then stand up. Stand for our future," Ms Banda told the leaders.

"Stand for our funding. Stand for our education. This is no longer an ‘if’ issue. We must be at the table, we must be sure girls are getting back to school and we must do it now.”

The Generation Equality Forum, marking the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing women’s conference, was delayed from last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and will be mainly held online.

It is a follow-up to a forum in Mexico City in March and is co-chaired by France and Mexico.

Updated: June 30, 2021, 8:16 PM