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Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott are backing a $1 billion fund to advance gender equality and women’s leadership

March 17, 2022, 11:22 AM UTC

Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott are among philanthropists donating money to the Gender Fund, which seeks to raise $1 billion to advance equality and women’s leadership in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

Contributions to date have topped $320 million and grant-making has begun across the three regions, Co-Impact, the fund’s manager, said in a statement on Thursday. It plans to raise the target amount over the next 10 years.

While funding for gender equality has increased over the past decade, only 1% of the total has actually reached women groups, according to the statement. The new investment vehicle will provide large, long-term and flexible funding to predominately women-led and locally-rooted organizations. 

“It starts with opening more doors for women to step into their power and craft policies that lift others up like them,” Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in the statement. “This is our once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our systems to finally work for women and girls.” 

Other organizations backing the Gender Fund include Cartier Philanthropy, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

The fund began sourcing and awarding an initial set of 15 grants for initiatives addressing issues, including gender-based violence, maternal health, gender inclusive education and women’s leadership.

Nearly 2.4 billion adult women globally don’t have access to equal opportunities and those working get paid only two-thirds of what men are expected to earn, according to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2021 report.

“To make progress on gender equality, we need systemic change in the structures, laws, and policies and processes of government, in how markets function, and how social norms are shaped and enforced,” said Olivia Leland, founder and chief executive officer of Co-Impact.

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