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Science & Tech: Melinda French Gates Blasts 'frustrating' Lack Of

SCIENCE & TECH: Melinda French Gates blasts ‘frustrating’ lack of funding for women’s rights in veiled shot at ex-husband Bill Gates

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Melinda French Gates took a thinly veiled shot at former husband Bill Gates — lamenting a “frustrating and shortsighted” lack of charitable support for women’s rights in an incendiary essay Tuesday.

French Gates — who received $12.5 billon after her shock exit last month from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — said her new charity will donate $1 billion over the next two years to causes benefiting women, family and reproductive rights.

She suggested that it was a cause she was discouraged from pursuing earlier — when she was partnered with the Microsoft founder and world’s fifth richest man, whom she divorced in 2021.

Melinda French Gates detailed plans for $1 billion in donations. AP

“In nearly 20 years as an advocate for women and girls, I have learned that there will always be people who say it’s not the right time to talk about gender equality,” French Gates said in an op-ed published by the New York Times.

“Not if you want to be relevant. Not if you want to be effective with world leaders (most of them men),” French Gates wrote. “The second the global agenda gets crowded, women and girls fall off. It’s frustrating and shortsighted.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $77 billion since it was founded in 2000.

In 2021, the organization committed $2.1 billion “to advance gender equality globally,” according to a release at the time.

But she hammered away at the overall lack of funds targeting women.

“Only about 2 percent of charitable giving in the United States goes to organizations focused on women and girls, and only about half a percentage point goes to organizations focused on women of color specifically,” she wrote.

“When we allow this cause to go so chronically underfunded, we all pay the cost. As shocking as it is to contemplate, my 1-year-old granddaughter may grow up with fewer rights than I had,” she added.

French Gates — who split with the tech mogul shortly after reports tied him to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — also revealed specifics about how her newly formed charitable group Pivotal Venture plans to fill the funding void.

The $1 billion in funding through 2026 includes $200 million in grants for groups “working in the United States to protect the rights of women and advance their power and influence,” according to her essay and a release from her organization.

Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates announced their divorce in 2021. Getty Images for Robin Hood

French Gates cited various concerns that spurred her to take action, including “unconscionable” maternal mortality rates, a lack of national paid family leave and a rise of mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, among teen girls.

“While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post-Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home,” Gates wrote, referring to the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

“For too long, a lack of money has forced organizations fighting for women’s rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense. I want to help even the match,” Gates added.

The National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights have all received grants.

French Gates said she has also offered 12 individuals “whose work I admire their own $20 million grant-making fund” and will allow them to decide how to use the funds.

Recipients include former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, US Olympian Allyson Felix and filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

Additionally, French Gates will launch a $250 million initiative this fall to support efforts at “improving the mental and physical health of women and girls globally.”

“By issuing an open call to grass-roots organizations beyond the reach of major funders, I hope to lift up groups with personal connections to the issues they work on,” French Gates said. “People on the front lines should get the attention and investment they deserve, including from me.”

Bill Gates will serve as the sole chairperson of his charitable organization following his ex-wife’s exit. The organization will change its name to the Gates Foundation.

“I am sorry to see Melinda leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work,” Gates said in a post on X.

Melinda French Gates will formally step down from the Gates Foundation on June 7. AFP via Getty Images

When word of their separation first surfaced in 2021, French Gates wrote that the marriage had become “irretrievably broken.”

The divorce played out even as Gates faced scrutiny over his past association with Epstein, who died in prison in 2019.

Gates has admitted to having “several dinners” with the sex offender in the early 2010 while he was attempting to raise funds for the Gates Foundation.

“At the time, I didn’t realize that by having those meetings it would be seen as giving him credibility. You’re almost saying, ‘I forgive that type of behavior,’ or something,” Gates said in a 2022 interview with UK outlet The Times. “So clearly the way it’s seen, I made a huge mistake not understanding that.”

Elsewhere, French Gates told CBS in March 2022 that her former spouse’s association with Epstein had played a role in their eventual separation and divorce.

“It was many things. But I did not like that he’d had meetings with Jeffrey Epstein,” French Gates said. “I made that clear to him.”

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