The investments, focussed in India, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, are aimed at advancing gender equality, spreading digital financial inclusion, increasing job opportunities, and supporting the agricultural sector
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday committed USD 170 million to advance women’s economic empowerment primarily focused in India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, covering areas such as family planning and nutrition, as well as financial inclusion.
The Gates foundation is targeting its investments on four key priorities: financial inclusion, support, opportunities and assets.
Although more people overall have access to financial services than ever before, women are still being left behind, especially in poor economies, leaving a global digital financial gender gap, the foundation said in a statement.
“One of the most profound ways a woman can make life better for herself and her family is to take control of her economic future,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “When women have money in their hands and the authority to choose how to spend it, they grow in confidence and power. They change the unwritten rules that say women are lesser than men.”
These investments will focus primarily on closing that gap, and ensuring women have access to and can use digital financial services, including mobile bank accounts. Many governments send welfare or safety net payments to low-income families, but this money is usually controlled by men
“We will work on systems in eight countries that will deposit these funds directly into bank accounts that are used and controlled by women,” the statement said.
These investments will expand a new generation of “self-help groups” in India and Africa and that will empower women and adolescent girls with the skills and opportunities to imagine a different future and take bold steps that will transform their lives.
This “self-help group 2.0” model will improve training modules for self-help group leaders as they equip women with a range of skills, from financial literacy to how to use new digital tools and voice their opinions in the company of men. In particular, we aim to reach the poorest, most marginalized women, it said.
“In looking at where women’s economic opportunities fall short, we are focusing on increasing the profitability of women’s farming and ensuring women have the same ability as men to access and connect to agricultural markets,” it said.
The foundation will invest in research to develop a deeper understanding of how land ownership affects women’s access to resources and what this means for her – and her family’s – ability to earn, save, and participate in her local economy.
The investments will build on the foundation’s previous financial commitments to advance progress on gender equality, including USD 80 million for gender data, advocacy and accountability, of which USD 20 million was dedicated to supporting women’s movements.“The old saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ doesn’t always hold true for women and girls. Economies aren’t automatically inclusive and women and girls don’t necessarily benefit as they grow. We need deliberate tactics to ensure women aren’t left fighting the current,” said Sarah Hendriks, Director, Gender Equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.