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Melinda French Gates to donate $1 billion over the next 2 years. Here's who will get the funds

French Gates announced the pledge as her first venture after leaving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Melinda French Gates
Posted at 7:26 PM, May 28, 2024

Melinda French Gates announced Tuesday she plans to donate $1 billion over the next two years amid a "new chapter" in her philanthropy. But who will the funds go to? Women, families and reproductive rights, French Gates said.

In an op-ed in The New York Times, the philanthropist shared the spending mission as a starting venture in her work beyond the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Next week, she's leaving the nonprofit, which she co-founded with her ex-husband Bill Gates almost 25 years ago.

When that announcement was made earlier in May, it was reported that French Gates would receive $12.5 billion as part of a divorce agreement with Gates, and she vowed to spend that money on women and families, according to The Associated Press.

She expressed in her op-ed the "frustrating and shortsighted" standing women and girls have in the "global agenda," saying she's learned in her nearly two decades of advocacy that "there will always be people who say it's not the right time to talk about gender equality."

"Decades of research on economics, well-being and governance make it clear that investing in women and girls benefits everyone," French Gates wrote. "And yet, around the world, women are seeing a tremendous upsurge in political violence and other threats to their safety."

French Gates pointed to issues around the globe, from the Taliban takeover's effect on progress for women and girls to low-income countries with increasingly malnourished pregnant women. In the U.S., she cited high maternal mortality rates, specifically for Black and Native American mothers.

Melinda French Gates

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"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," French Gates wrote.

It's unclear where that statistic is from, but the University of Indiana reported a similar one in October. Its report said that although charitable donations to women's and girls' organizations increased 9.2% from 2019 to 2020, it represented less than 2% of all giving in the nation that year.

But now with this second billion-dollar commitment to women since 2019 for French Gates, the numbers will hopefully shift.

The philanthropist said in her op-ed that the new $1 billion funding will be dispersed through her organization Pivotal Ventures to the National Women's Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

She also said she's offered 12 people "whose work I admire their own $20 million grant-making fund to distribute as he or she sees fit." That includes former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, track and field athlete and maternal health advocate Allyson Felix, and Afghan educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh.

And in the fall, French Gates said she'll introduce a $250 million initiative to improve women and girls' physical and mental health worldwide. She issued an open call for grass-roots organizations to request funding.

"As a young woman, I could never have imagined that one day I would be part of an effort like this," she wrote. "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."