The latter focus is a relatively new, but obviously important objective that Melinda Gates took on seriously more than four years ago, as I noted at the time. It is important enough to her that she emphasized it today in a commentary on Fortune:
Growing up in a Catholic household in Texas, I never would have guessed that I would one day travel around the world talking about the benefits of contraceptives. I certainly never imagined that I'd speak out publicly about my own experience with family planning. But these days, I'm doing a lot of both.
Everything changed when Bill and I started our foundation. I started traveling to places where women were getting pregnant too young, too old, and too often for their bodies to handle. I visited communities where everyone I met knew a woman who had died in childbirth. I visited communities where every woman I met had lost a child. I met still more mothers who were desperate not to get pregnant again because they couldn’t afford to feed and take care of the children they already had. And I began to understand why, even though I wasn’t there to talk about contraceptives, women kept bringing them up anyway.
After spending time with these women, I found it impossible to turn my back on them. I thought about them all the time. I also started reflecting on just how transformative contraceptives have been in my own life.
Both evidence and experience show that empowered women are drivers of progress, creators of wealth, and the world’s greatest force for transforming societies. The women I met overseas are ready and willing to contribute to a better future for all of us. We should take it on ourselves to make sure they have that chance.The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is keeping it real. If only governments could get on that same page the world would be a vastly better place.
[And, no, my research is not funded by them, so I don't have any conflict of interest in saying these things!]