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Melinda French Gates has decided to shift her philanthropic focus to supporting reproductive rights in the United States following the 2022 Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court, which allowed individual states to decide abortion rights. French Gates, who had previously focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, now feels compelled to offer financial support to organizations fighting for women’s rights in the US. As one of the world’s wealthiest and most prominent philanthropists, she resigned from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this month and received $12.5 billion from the foundation as part of her divorce agreement. French Gates hinted that she would focus her philanthropic efforts on women and girls, with a particular emphasis on reproductive rights.

French Gates revealed her new philanthropic plan, announcing that she will donate $1 billion through 2026 to advance women’s rights globally through her organization, Pivotal Ventures. This includes $200 million in grants to organizations fighting for women’s reproductive rights and $250 million in awards to organizations improving women’s mental and physical health. In a move similar to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, French Gates will grant $240 million to a group of 12 advocates and influential leaders to distribute to organizations they believe are making a meaningful impact in women’s health. By providing resources to these leaders, French Gates hopes to bring a wider range of perspectives into philanthropy and unlock innovative approaches to addressing women’s health issues.

French Gates expressed frustration with the lack of investment in women’s health and rights in the US, highlighting issues such as the high maternal mortality rate and the absence of national paid family leave. She cited statistics showing that only 2% of donations in the US go to organizations focused on women and girls, despite the potential economic benefits of investing in women’s health. French Gates emphasized the urgency of addressing these challenges and expressed her determination to seize the opportunity she has been given to make a difference for women and girls.

In her op-ed, French Gates discussed the importance of setting her own agenda and advocating for women’s empowerment in philanthropy. She criticized shortsighted naysayers who question the impact of charitable efforts to support women and highlighted the need for systemic changes to improve women’s health and rights. French Gates also introduced the group of leaders she will be working with, including former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, maternal-health advocate Allyson Felix, and Afghan women’s education activist Shabana Basij-Rasikh. By collaborating with these influential individuals, French Gates hopes to bring diverse perspectives and innovative strategies to her philanthropic initiatives.

French Gates’ decision to focus on reproductive rights in the US comes at a critical time, with the Dobbs decision reshaping the landscape of abortion rights in the country. By directing significant resources towards organizations fighting for women’s rights, she aims to level the playing field and empower women to advocate for their reproductive freedoms. Through her philanthropic efforts, French Gates seeks to address pressing issues such as maternal mortality and paid family leave by investing in women’s health and empowerment. She hopes to inspire others to join her in supporting women and girls, setting a new agenda for philanthropy that prioritizes gender equality and social impact.

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