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Melinda Gates. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
Melinda Gates. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

‘Tough conversations’

Melinda Gates on ‘the greatest anti-poverty tool we have ever had’ and why the U.S. is a backward society

By WITW Staff on May 7, 2019

In a wide-ranging interview, Melinda Gates has elaborated on a range of issues she addresses in her new book The Moment of Lift — from the top three things a western woman can do to help the world, to the ways she considers the U.S. a backward society; child marriage, and how she overcame her Catholic upbringing to recognize contraception as a tool for progress.

Gates says that, as a Catholic, she had once struggled with the question of whether to openly advocate for the use of contraceptives — a practice that is not only forbidden but demonized by the Vatican and top Catholic leaders. But through her efforts to combat global poverty as a co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she came to see that any effort to eliminate poverty must necessarily go hand-in-hand with increased access to contraceptives.

“There is no country that has made it from middle income to high income in the last 50 years without going through the transition of having contraceptives widely available to people,” Gates told the Guardian. “If we care about women, we should be delivering contraception, because it is the greatest anti-poverty tool we have ever had.”

Staying on the subject of parenting choices, she weighs in on the fact the U.S. has no law ensuring paid maternity leave for new mothers — a sign of a backward society, she says. To that end, she has established an office, Pivotal Ventures, to specifically address women’s issues in the U.S. and with a recent, particular focus on research on medical leave and the difference it makes.

In in the developed world, she observes, many women remain in denial about the gender equality — even at the micro-level of their own domestic lives. Every woman, she suggests, should “look into your own home” to see who is expected to be doing the housework and menial chores that have long been considered women’s work.

“If there isn’t equality, you need to bring up some tough conversations about unpaid labour in your home,” said Gates.

Women, she continued, need to be similarly attentive to the impact of potential sexism in their workplace, particularly when companies try to prevent employees from discussing their pay with each other. In such environments, Gates warned, many women might be shocked to discover that they are covertly being paid less than their male colleagues. And to ensure that women’s rights are protected, Gates concluded, “it is essential to vote — and to vote for candidates whose policies best support women.”

Read the full interview at The Guardian.


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