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Gates foundation will invest $80 million to fight gender discrimination

By Sharat Pradhan
Last updated on: May 17, 2016 22:24 IST
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While speaking at the Women Deliver International Conference in Copenhagen, Melinda Gates announced the funding to collect data on the gender gap, reports Sharat Pradhan.

IMAGE: Melinda Gates, co-chair of the the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation speaks at 4th Women Deliver International Conference in Copenhagen. Photograph: WomenDeliver/Twitter

To end gender discrimination across the globe, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $80 million to create a gender data revolution.

Making this announcement at the 4th Women Deliver International Conference in Copenhagen on Tuesday, Melinda Gates said, “We cannot close the gender gap without closing the gender data gap. So, today I am announcing that our foundation will invest $80 million over the next three years to help to do that."

"This new money will improve methodologies for data collection and allow us to collect data in areas such as time use, unpaid work and economic empowerment. It will build on work already under way to provide a fuller, richer picture of the challenges women and girls face," she added. 

Emphasising that data alone could not change lives of women, she would see to it that the collected data was put to good use.

"Even the best data in the world will not be able to do much good unless it is used to influence decision making. And it won’t do us much good unless it gives women and girls access to healthcare, greater decision making power and increasing economic opportunity. All of this requires patience and persistence," Melinda explained. 

The philanthropist felt that even though there was still a long way to go before the ultimate goal of gender equality could be reached, the progress made so far does generate a lot of optimism. 

"Since 1990, the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth every year has dropped by nearly half. Almost 25 million more women are using modern contraceptives now than three years ago. And globally, there are as many girls as boys going to school," she said. 

To elaborate the improving situation, Melinda gave an example of an Indian girl during her visit to India last year. 

"During my visit, I met Neelam told me how she and her husband were ostracized by society because their marriage defied tradition. They were financially ruined, and forced to migrate to look for work. 

"The pain didn’t end there. Neelam was attacked by two men who tried to rape her. Then the community blamed her, and shamed her, for the assault. However, Neelam’s life turned around when she joined a self-help group. It was in that group she learned new farming techniques which helped not only increase in her crop yields and income, but also regain her confidence and dignity," said Melinda. 

She said that Neelam earned more respect and authority at her home especially from her mother-in-law. 

"She was able to save for a moped for her teenage sons -- who now boast about her. Her mother-in- law told me that she admires and listens to Neelam. Her husband now does his share of the chores -- sometimes he collects water, or serves food and tea -- and he’s proud of it," Melinda said.

Pointing out how things changed for Neelam even outside her home, Melinda said, "Neelam joined a tribal women’s network that makes sure the local government provides the services it should. Now, women who ignored her, want her to speak at their meetings."

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Sharat Pradhan in Copenhagen
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