The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has vowed to fight for the empowerment of women and girls worldwide at a time when the organization has raised $2,3 billion for various projects.
The Foundation has a large number of programs in developed and developing nations. It is against this background that the co-chair and trustee of the Foundation, Melinda Gates, says they have put women’s issues high on their agenda with a goal of ensuring that 120 million women worldwide will voluntarily access contraceptives by 2020.
Gates, who is the wife of billionaire businessman, Bill Gates, told delegates at a sold out event in Washington D-C yesterday entitled “Smart Women, Smart Power, that empowering women and girls is a passion she has had after visiting Africa a few years ago and witnessing some situations that she could have a part in changing.
She said some of the issues resulted in the organization’s move to put women’s issues on the agenda.
Gates said despite being a devout Catholic, she believes that women can use contraceptives as an empowerment tool as they play a critical role in running families.
Catholics are opposed to the use of contraceptives.
Gates also said research has shown that women make a lot of investments for their kids and families and it was therefore important for them to be also empowered through various projects.
Among some of the projects being done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa is an urban poverty special initiative, which focuses on building the capacity of community organizations focusing on the needs of the poor.
In Zimbabwe, the organization recently handed over 480 housing units built at a cost of $5 million in Harare’s Dzivarasekwa suburb meant for the poor and displaced victims of the state-sanctioned 2005 Operation Murambatsvina or Operation Clean Filth, which left thousands of people homeless.
The local authority says it will adopt the Foundation’s model to upgrade more than 60 slums in the country’s capital city.
Gates, who was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said they always respect the culture of people where there are implementing such projects in order to effectively engage communities and cater for their needs.
She said their projects aimed at empowering girls include mobile phone banking which has become popular in some African nations as they are saving money through using modern technology.
Gates, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Economics and a Masters Degree in Business Administration, told delegates that although her organization started with a research-based thrust, it is now concentrating on delivery and has added and prioritized women and girls in their agenda in order to empower them.
She further noted that the Foundation recently asked for proposals worldwide for innovative ideas on investing in women and girls and received an overwhelming response from the developing world. Her organization will fund some of the proposed projects.
Gates noted that men are expected to be involved in the empowerment of women and girls in order to ensure the success of community programs.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in philanthropic work worldwide although most of its work is in developing nations where they are engaged in areas like women empowerment, education, health and food security, among several others.