Last month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will commit $2.1 billion in the next five years to advance gender equality worldwide. The objective is to enhance economic empowerment for women, strengthen their rights, strengthen health and sanitation for women and girls, family planning and encourage women leadership. The announcement was made at a Gender Equality Forum in Paris, which primarily focuses on enabling women and girls to utilize most of their opportunities. This announcement comes weeks after the organization's founders, Bill and Melinda Gates, announced their divorce. Melinda Gates has made women empowerment a priority at this foundation and her company.
Largest Private Charitable Group
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private charitable group in the United States with attribution of nearly $50 billion. The organization allocates $5 billion annually for philanthropic work. However, the organization's future leadership is under sensitivity following the recent divorce announcement. The Gender Equality forum was a three-day-long event from June 30 to July 2, 2021, and together with the governments, private sector and civil society partners under an umbrella, promised actions and provide a financial, political and pre-defined commitment to pace up gender equality and provide a space for women's rights.
Melinda Gates said, "The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but the progress has been slow." She added that there is a need for a movement that would 'reignite the gender equality movement and deliver a change.' She further noted that the beauty of this fight is that it will benefit every individual, and now is the time that the world must seize it for a better, more equal future. The forum took place at a critical juncture. Even though the human race has progressed dramatically in the world concerning women's rights, no area on the face of Earth still offers an equal footing to both males and females.
Commitment Under Three Heads
The commitment of $2.1 billion will be primarily under three subheads in the next five years: economic empowerment, health and family planning, and encouraging women in leadership. The charitable organization will pump in $650 million for women's economic empowerment and financial independence in the next five years. This would be an expansion to the existing funding for the organization's women empowerment initiative. It will cushion empowerment collectives, strengthen the care and care work economy, reduce the barriers of unpaid work and improve women's financial inclusion.
Out of promised $2.1 billion, $1.4 billion would be under the health and family planning head. This would broaden the reach of family planning and women's health. The primary focus would be on the free access of contraceptives and other options to support family planning partners, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Family Planning 2030, Shaping Equitable Market Access for Reproductive Health Initiative, amongst many others.
Under the third primary focus of the Gates Foundation comes the acceleration in a leadership program for which $100 million has been pledged in the next five years and $230 million in the next 10 years. The fund will aid in fastening women inclusion in leadership roles, particularly in economics, law, and health. This funding includes an allocation to a new fund, 'Co-Impact', that aims to disfigure the ingrained barriers to gender equality, thus facilitating leadership of girls and women across the globe.
The Gender Equality Forum is the centre stage that holds world leaders accountable for gender equality in their countries. It is to ensure that all human beings worldwide have an opportunity to live healthy, respectable and productive lives. The co-founder of the organization Bill Gates said that gender equality must be central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). He said, "Prioritizing gender equality is not only the right thing to do, but it is also essential to fight poverty and preventable diseases."
ILO: Recovery Post-peak Pandemic Is Sexist
New data released by the foundation recently mentioned the impact COVID-19 had on women. So much so that, last year, the term 'shecession' was coined to describe the developments in the global economy. The data mentioned that women were twice as likely as men to lose jobs. The reports from ILO stated that the recovery post the peak of the pandemic was also geared towards men. Men have almost regained their jobs, while women continue to wait in a state of perplexity. In 2020, 13 million women lost their jobs worldwide, and 2 million more are expected to be excluded this year.
The data released by the Eurasia Group highlighted the prospects of gender-equal policies and their ability to fuel the global economy on the path of recovery from the pandemic. Access to childcare for women worldwide who currently lack the facility could trigger $3 trillion of additional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year by providing them opportunities to become a part of the labour force. Apart from this, cash transfer programs could lift women from absolute poverty, which is defined as the survival of an individual on less than $2 per day. The forum met with an ambition to fix this inequality and work on the promises of the 1995 summit. The goal is to get experts, activists of all levels, government officials, and business leaders to work together to move from words about gender equality to concrete actions that will make it a reality. The impact of policies that address women employment, female entrepreneurship, family and child care, and other health services could be massive.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been operational for 20 years now, and since then, it has been instrumental in advocating for family planning and women's health. For nearly ten years, it has been supporting partners to break down structural barriers that women and girls face and advance women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion. The organization has a gender equality division that focuses on accelerating progress towards a more gender-equal world.