The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $170 million initiative to advance gender equality globally through the economic empowerment of women.
Over the next four years, the foundation's new Gender Equality strategy will focus on connecting women to market opportunities, ensuring that they have access to financial services, and supporting peer groups that build women's collective knowledge, economic power, and voice. Economic power is one of the most promising entry points for gender equality, Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates argues in a post on Quartz. In the post, Gates notes that while fully a third of married women in the poorest countries have no control over household finances, those who do are far more likely than men to spend money on nutritious food, health care, and education; and that when women gain access to a bank account, they work outside the home more, which not only increases their income but changes men's perception of them.
Initial investments made through the initiative will be focused in four countries — India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda — that are already making gains in the area of women's empowerment or where the foundation sees potential for greater impact. The initiative also will work with governments in eight countries, including Pakistan, to send safety-net payments for low-income families to digital bank accounts controlled by women, and will support self-help groups where women and girls learn about everything from launching a small business to raising healthy children.
"Women acting on their own can do what all the philanthropic organizations in the world can never accomplish: change the unwritten rule that women are lesser than men," wrote Gates. "Our role, as we see it, is to make targeted investments that give women the opportunity to write new rules."
(Photo credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage)