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Melinda French Gates announces $1B funding plans for reproductive and women’s health issues

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Melinda French Gates, the philanthropist and ex-wife of Bill Gates, recently announced plans to grant $1 billion over two years to programs and people working on women’s and family issues. She emphasized the need to fund reproductive initiatives in the U.S. following a Supreme Court decision that weakened abortion protections. French Gates is using her independent company, Pivotal Ventures, to deploy the funds, with $200 million in grants going to U.S. groups focused on women’s rights. Notable recipients include the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Women’s Law Center, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and States United Democracy Center.

In addition to the grants to U.S. groups, French Gates plans to give $20 million each to twelve individuals globally whose work she admires. Recipients include well-known figures like former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and Olympic athlete Allyson Felix. French Gates will also launch a $250 million global initiative to focus on the mental and physical health of women and girls, including an open call for grassroots organizations beyond the reach of major funders.

French Gates’ efforts align with those of other major philanthropists who are dispersing their wealth to support causes they are passionate about. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fiancée Lauren Sanchez have issued “Courage and Civility Awards” to leaders such as Dolly Parton and Eva Longoria. Similarly, MacKenzie Scott held an open call for community-led nonprofits, resulting in grants totaling $640 million. French Gates aims to address the chronic underfunding of organizations supporting women and girls, particularly women of color, stating that her 1-year-old granddaughter may face fewer rights than she did.

One of the U.S. grant recipients announced by French Gates is a nonprofit news organization called The 19th, which focuses on issues important to women and LGBTQ+ people, with a specific emphasis on underrepresented communities. The organization’s CEO, Emily Ramshaw, expressed gratitude for the support, noting that it will enable The 19th to enhance its politics and policy coverage in a significant election year and make strategic investments in its audience and future sustainability. French Gates’ philanthropic efforts reflect a growing trend among wealthy individuals to support causes that promote social change and address systemic inequalities.

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