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Melinda French Gates donates $40m USD to men and boys' projects

Melinda French Gates plans to donate USD $1 billion to projects supporting gender equality worldwide, including $40 million to two projects focused on men and masculinity. 

French Gates, who is leaving the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation she founded with her ex-husband, has allocated twelve $20 million grants to  "global leaders", including Richard V. Reeves and Gary Barker.

Making the announcement, French Gates said: "I offered 12 people whose work I admire their own $20m grant-making fund to distribute as he or she sees fit".

Expanding gender equality to include men and boys 

Reeves is the founding president of the American Institute for Boys and Men (AIBM) and author of the book "Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What to Do About It", which is described as tackling the "complex and urgent crisis of boyhood and manhood". Responding to the announcement, Reeves said:

Of course, there remain many gender gaps where women and girls remain at a disadvantage, especially in terms of pay, senior positions of leadership, access to venture capital, and so on. But in advanced economies, there are also gender gaps where boys and men have now fallen behind, especially if they are Black or from a lower-income background. In the US."

Many of the key men and boys' issues that Reeves' work focuses on in the US are similar to those faced in Australia, including: 

  • The gender gap in higher education is wider today in the US than it was in 1972 when Title IX was passed, but the other way around, with men earning only 42% of degrees
  • The risk of male suicide, which is four times higher for men compared with women in the US and has risen by more than a third among younger men since 2010
  • Men dying prematurely,  before the age of 65, resulting in over 4 million years of potential life lost in 2022, three times the number for women.

  • Employment rates among Black men are lower than for white men, white women, and Black women

Reeves notes that, until recently, the standard response has been to ignore the issues that men and boys face on the grounds that gender equality is exclusively a women's issue.  

He says: "This is a mistaken approach. If gender gaps matter, they matter in both directions. Excluding boys and men also makes it easier for reactionary voices to claim that gender equality is in conflict with the interests of boys and men. The much better response is to expand the reach of gender equality to include the issues of boys and men. The point is not that young women do not have problems. It is that boys and young men do as well. Two things can be true at the same time."  

Men and boys as allies in gender equality  

Gary Barker is President, CEO,  and co-founder of the Equimundo Center for Masculinities and Social Justice, which places a strong focus on male allyship in gender equality. His work focuses on healthy masculinities, men's involvement as caregivers, men's attitudes and behaviors related to violence, fatherhood, and gender equality, and strategies to engage men and boys in promoting gender equality.

Improving women's health worldwide 

The majority of French Gates' $1 billion funding will go towards women and girls, with $200 million in grants aimed at organisations fighting to advance women's power and protect their rights, including reproductive rights. Later, $250 million of the funding will be awarded to initiatives working to improve women's mental and physical health worldwide.

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