$20 Million from Gates Foundation to Address Gender Inequality Globally

gates foundation
This pie chart, produced by Equal Measures 2030, shows that many policymakers in the development sector do not have full knowledge of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Timing couldn’t be better. Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will give $20 million over the next three years to empower women’s organizations globally.

The news comes on the same day that Equal Measures 2030 released a Gender Report along with the Gates Foundation and ONE Campaign Coalition at the United Nations General Assembly, taking place this week in New York.

Some of the new funding from the Gates Foundation will go toward better research and training, as well as multiplying support for grassroots activism in the gender equality sector of development.

Melinda Gates announced the new funding at a Gates Foundation event promoting the UN’s sustainable development goals. The $20 million in new funding represents about .05% of the Gates Foundation’s $40 billion in assets. An important difference in approach is being advanced with this funding, which will rely less heavily on science and more on building grassroots organizational power and efficacy. But while science might not be as key, data, and data-driven interventions, will play a big role in this new endeavor.

Why? Because many policymakers in the development sector still do not know what issues they need to address in order to make progress for gender equality. One example: maternal mortality rates.

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Research supported by The Gates Foundation shows that many policymakers do not know some of the basic data about gender equality. This graphic shows the  accuracy of policymakers’ estimates of the scale of maternal mortality.

The report from Equal Measures 2030 states: “When asked to estimate the scale of several key issues – maternal mortality (the number of women dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth), girls married before the age of 18, women in the labor force, and women in parliament – relevant to girls and women in their country, policymakers were largely not confident in their knowledge of the facts.”

“Policymakers are flying blind when it comes to gender equality. Two thirds of policymakers believe progress has been made, but they aren’t confident in their knowledge of the facts and figures. It’s exactly this gap that Equal Measures 2030 seeks to close,” said Alison Holder, Director of Equal Measures 2030.

So while this new funding for gender equality grassroots movement building worldwide is desperately needed, there is much work to be done simply to figure out what the problems are before applying the solutions.

“We need the full picture if we’re to have any chance of meeting the ambitious promises set out in the SDGs,” added Holder.

Women’s nonprofits slated to get increased funding from the new Gates $20 million include Mamacash, a Dutch organization, which will get $4.5 million over three years. Other groups receiving funding include Change.org and the Prospera Network.

As we’ve written before, Melinda Gates has become increasingly focused on gender equality over the past several years. Now, it appears she is taking that focus to a larger scale and engaging more partners on the ground to enact a gender equality agenda.

At the same time, Equal Measure 2030 appears to be playing a critical role in helping to gather and share the data on gender equality in order to inform strategy on the ground. Equal Measures 2030 has a wide array of partners helping to build this database and make it useful to strategists and policymakers. Besides the Gates Foundation, other partners for Equal Measure 2030 include PLAN International, ONE Campaign, ARROW, Data2X, Women Deliver, KPMG, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), and The African Women’s Development & Communication Network (FEMNET).

More on the study here.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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