Melinda French Gates to give $1 billion to women's rights groups The 59-year-old says her decision to donate $1 billion was in part due to the racial gap in women's mortality rates. She most recently stepped down as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda French Gates to give $1 billion to women's rights groups

Melinda French Gates says she will donate $1 billion over the next two years to support women and family rights globally. Here, French Gates speaks at the forum Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters in Washington in April 2023.

Melinda French Gates says she will donate $1 billion over the next two years to support women and family rights globally. Here, French Gates speaks at the forum Empowering Women as Entrepreneurs and Leaders during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters in Washington in April 2023. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

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Jose Luis Magana/AP

Melinda French Gates says she will donate $1 billion globally over the next two years to help support women and families, including reproductive rights.

In a New York Times opinion piece published Tuesday, French Gates wrote that she is committed to advocating for women and girls, emphasizing that with women in many states facing growing restrictions on abortion, she felt increasingly "compelled to support reproductive rights here at home."

"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," French Gates wrote.

French Gates, who announced her decision to step down from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this month, says her decision to donate the $1 billion was motivated in part by the racial gap in mortality rates for women.

Additionally, she pointed out the rise in political violence and other threats when it comes to women and their safety.

"It’s frustrating and shortsighted. Decades of research on economics, well-being and governance make it clear that investing in women and girls benefits everyone," French Gates said.

The philanthropist noted that her planned investment includes $200 million aimed at increasing the work of organizations that advance and protect women’s rights.

In addition, she says it will include $240 million in partnerships with 12 global leaders, including former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern; athlete and maternal health advocate Allyson Felix; and Afghan educator and women’s rights advocate Shabana Basij-Rasikh — each receiving a $20 million fund to distribute to organizations that improve women’s health both in the U.S. and internationally.

"As a young woman, I could never have imagined that one day I would be part of an effort like this. Because I have been given this extraordinary opportunity, I am determined to do everything I can to seize it and to set an agenda that helps other women and girls set theirs, too," French Gates wrote.

News of French Gates' latest philanthropic efforts comes after she announced her departure earlier this month as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — a foundation she has helped lead since its inception more than two decades ago.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), the 59-year-old said she was "immensely proud" of the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the decision to step down as co-chair was not easy.

French Gates' last day with the foundation is June 7.

"I am immensely proud of the foundation that Bill and I built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequities around the world," she wrote in her announcement.

French Gates and her former husband, Bill Gates, launched the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and is a massive donor to issues surrounding global health. Since the foundation's start, Bill Gates has donated about $35.8 billion worth of Microsoft stock to the global organization, Forbes reported.

In 2021, Melinda and Bill Gates announced the end of their 27-year marriage. At the time of their separation, the two said they still shared a belief in the foundation's mission and would continue to work together despite their marriage ending.

Editors Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is among NPR's financial supporters.