This special edition of Impact, the global health magazine of PSI, was produced in partnership with Women Deliver and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. This issue, launched in conjunction with the Women Deliver 2013 Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, brings insightful dialogue on the value of investing in girls and women’s health. Our hope is that this issue will call attention to the urgent need for increased investment in girls and women in the developing world.
Melinda Gates is co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with Bill Gates, she shapes and approves the foundation’s strategies, reviews results, and sets the overall direction of the organization. Together they meet with grantees and partners to further the foundation’s goal of improving equity in the U.S. and around the world. They use many public appearances to advocate for the foundation’s issues. In July of 2012, Gates made headlines by spearheading the London Summit on Family Planning, with the goal of delivering contraceptives to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020. While involved in all of the organization’s endeavors, Gates believes that empowering women in developing countries to decide whether and when to have a child is a critical driver of her work at the foundation, since this decision can be the source of transformational improvements in the health and prosperity of whole societies. Bill and Melinda Gates live in Medina, Washington, near Seattle. They have three children.
IMPACT: In your travels, you’ve met many women who have shared their personal stories with you. Is there one story that stands out?
MELINDA GATES: I am inspired by the women I meet everywhere I go. They have to work so hard just to make sure their families survive, but somehow they stay optimistic and do everything in their power to make the future better than the past. I try to talk and write about all of them when I come back from trips, because I believe their stories will inspire others as they’ve inspired me. On my most husband’s family and insist on spacing her pregnancies. I’ve been telling her story a lot lately.
In terms of one woman who stands out, I always come back to Marianne, who I met in a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya. I was talking with a group of mothers at a community center about why they use contraceptives, and Marianne said, “I want to bring every good thing to one child before I have another.” That is now a mantra for me. It expresses why I am motivated to do the work of the foundation.
We all want to bring every good thing to our children. I have three kids, and I can relate to that. Sharmila risked everything to give her children every good thing. The work we do with our partners is all about helping brave women like Marianne and Sharmila achieve that goal.