The Bill & Melinda Gates, Ford, and Open Society foundations have announced commitments of $2.1 billion, $420 million, and $100 million, respectively, over five years in support of efforts to advance gender equality globally.
Announced at the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, the Gates Foundation's commitment will focus on three areas: women's economic empowerment, health and family planning, and leadership. The commitment includes $650 million to expand the foundation's support for women's empowerment collectives and efforts to strengthen the care economy, improve women's financial inclusion, and reduce barriers to paid work; and $1.4 billion to expand its work to increase options for and access to contraceptives in partnership with UNFPA Supplies Partnership, Family Planning 2030, the Global Financing Facility, and the Shaping Equitable Market Access for Reproductive Health initiative. In the new funding area of accelerating women's inclusion in leadership roles—primarily in health, law, and economics—the foundation has committed $100 million over five years and $230 million over ten years, with an initial contribution to Co-Impact's newly launched Gender Fund.
In conjunction with the announcement, the foundation released new data showing that gender inequality is worsening, driven by COVID-related disruptions to women's health services, job losses in sectors where women are overrepresented, and a sharp increase in caregiving needs and other unpaid work. According to UNFPA, lockdowns have left twelve million women without access to contraceptives, resulting in 1.4 million unintended pregnancies, while according to the Eurasia Group, providing women with child care could add $3 trillion a year to the global economy and cash transfer programs could help lift a hundred million women out of extreme poverty.
The Ford Foundation's commitment will focus on addressing the growing epidemic of gender-based violence, reinforcing the need for a care-based economy, increasing workplace equality, and supplying critical resources to feminist movements and women's rights organizations addressing these global challenges. Funded in part with the proceeds of the foundation's $1 billion social bond issuance, the commitment includes $159 million for organizations dedicated to gender-based violence prevention and response and $94 million to strengthen the feminist and women and girls' rights infrastructure by supporting feminist-, women-, and girl-led organizations in the Global South and leveraging investments in the leadership of women and girls of color and transgender and gender non-conforming people across social justice movements. The foundation also will award $167 million in grants to address multifaceted issues such as economic justice and rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and technology and innovation; recipients include the Black Feminist Fund, Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), Equality Fund, CARE Fund, and Prospera.
For its part, the Open Society Foundations will invest in a range of gender justice initiatives, including efforts to increase the number of and support for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming people in positions of leadership in politics and governance; strengthen feminist leadership in peace and security, with a focus on women in areas facing political conflict; boost efforts to improve access, rights, resources, and agency for women, girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming communities to make decisions about their bodies and reproductive health care; advance economic justice and rights for women as workers and care providers; and reshape digital platforms to stop the targeted harassment of feminist activists online.
The Generation Equality Forum's organizers estimate that the three-day convening will generate a total of $40 billion in new investments, including $17 billion in government commitments.
"The pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls and underscored how much more we all must do to address and achieve gender equality with greater urgency," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "The Generation Equality Forum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape our society and to build an equitable future for all of us. It is through genuine partnerships and the collective action of philanthropy, government, civil society, the private sector, and feminist leaders themselves that we will achieve gender equality."
"The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow," said Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda French Gates. "Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change. The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We must seize this moment to build a better, more equal future."