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Melinda French Gates announces $1 billion donation to support women and families, including reproductive rights

Melinda Gates announces massive donation
Melinda Gates to donate $1 billion to benefit women and families 02:20

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates is donating $1 billion over the next two years to support women and families, including reproductive rights, as she steps away from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she helped to co-found nearly 25 years ago.

In a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday, French Gates, whose last day with the foundation is June 7, said that she is committed to advocating for women and girls.

"While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post-Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home," French Gates said in her op-ed. "For too long, a lack of money has forced organizations fighting for women's rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense. I want to help even the match."

French Gates said as part of the funding she is directing new grants through her organization, Pivotal. The grants will be "to groups working in the United States to protect the rights of women and advance their power and influence. These include the National Women's Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights."

French Gates said she was motivated to make the donation in part because of the racial gap in mortality rates for women.

"In the United States, maternal mortality rates continue to be unconscionable, with Black and Native American mothers at highest risk. Women in 14 states have lost the right to terminate a pregnancy under almost any circumstances. We remain the only advanced economy without any form of national paid family leave. And the number of teenage girls experiencing suicidal thoughts and persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness is at a decade high."

According to the Women and Girls Index, released by the Women's Philanthropy Institute, giving to women's and girl's organizations represents less than 2% of philanthropic support.

"Despite the pressing need, only about 2 percent of charitable giving in the United States goes to organizations focused on women and girls, and only about half a percentage point goes to organizations focused on women of color specifically. When we allow this cause to go so chronically underfunded, we all pay the cost," French Gates said. "As shocking as it is to contemplate, my 1-year-old granddaughter may grow up with fewer rights than I had."

French Gates said the $1 billion investment includes $200 million in grants aimed at increasing the work of organizations that are fighting to advance women's power and protect their rights, including reproductive rights, and $250 million that will be awarded later this fall to organizations working to improve women's mental and physical health worldwide.

"As a young woman, I could never have imagined that one day I would be part of an effort like this," French Gates said. "Because I have been given this extraordinary opportunity, I am determined to do everything I can to seize it and to set an agenda that helps other women and girls set theirs, too."

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