Melinda French Gates Giving $1B to Women’s Rights Efforts After Resigning from Foundation She Started with Ex Bill

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Melinda French Gates said she is looking forward to opening “a new chapter in my philanthropy”

<p>Lisa Lake/Getty Images</p> Melinda French Gates

Lisa Lake/Getty Images

Melinda French Gates

Melinda French Gates has pledged $1 billion to support women's rights in the United States as she prepares to leave the foundation she co-founded more than two decades ago.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, published Tuesday, May 28, French Gates revealed she will spend the money on “people and organizations working on behalf of women and families around the world, including on reproductive rights in the United States,” over the next two years.

French Gates, who is leaving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on June 7, said she is looking forward to opening “a new chapter in my philanthropy” nearly 25 years after co-founding the foundation with her now-ex-husband, Bill Gates.

As part of the new funding, Melinda has delivered funding to various groups that work to protect and strengthen women’s rights, including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Center for Reproductive Rights, PEOPLE can confirm.

Related: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates' Relationship Timeline

"With the rollback of women’s rights and headwinds to social progress in the U.S. and around the world, Melinda believes that now is the time to provide urgent capital to people and organizations fighting to protect and further equality and remove the barriers that hold women back," read a press release from French Gates' Pivotal Ventures. "This includes investing in the health and well-being of women and families, in line with her belief that health is a critical lever in enabling women to have their full power in society."

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French Gates hopes the funds will help address some of the struggles and concerns women face in the U.S. on a daily basis — including increased maternal mortality rates, loss of reproductive rights, a lack of national paid family leave and mental health issues.

Only about 2% of charitable giving in the U.S. goes towards women’s and girl’s organizations, according to the Women and Girls Index.

“When we allow this cause to go so chronically underfunded, we all pay the cost,” the philanthropist and advocate wrote in her op-ed.

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Part of the $1 billion commitment will also be awarded through an "open call," which will launch in the fall.

“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,” she wrote in the op-ed.

Related: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates Celebrate Daughter Jennifer’s Medical School Graduation

Speaking with CBS Mornings in 2022, French Gates said billionaires “can” and “should” give up half of their wealth through philanthropy.

“I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away — as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible,” she told Gayle King at the time.

She later added. “We should have a society where if for whatever reason wealth is in your hands, you put it back in society so that you change and you lift up others.”

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