There is no simple solution or singular approach to gender equality.
Every community has its own history, and everyone’s experiences and the gendered barriers they face are different—and often compounded, based on their gender identity, where they live, and the income status of their family, as well as their age, race, caste, and education level. People whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth also face additional barriers, largely grounded in harmful gender norms.
Our strategy focuses on clearing obstacles that prevent women and girls in low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia from making their own choices and leading healthy lives with opportunity, dignity, and respect. We work with our partners to amplify the progress already being made and identify areas where the need is high and our support can make a difference.
We work comprehensively. In countries and communities around the world, gender affects whether and how individuals can access resources and how much control they have over them. It is therefore critical for us to consider the role that gender plays in all our work at the foundation. We continue to improve and expand the ways in which we take gender into account, to ensure that our work is designed inclusively to benefit the people and communities it is intended to serve.
Cycles must be broken. When women and girls are expected to remain in the home, perform all domestic work, lack access to essential health care and the ability to plan the size of their families, and defer to parents, in-laws, male relatives, and husbands on important decisions, they cannot participate freely in their communities or fulfill their individual potential. But history has shown that even the most deeply entrenched gender biases can be changed—and that when they are, economic opportunities for women grow, their health improves, and their families thrive.
We are working to:
- improve women's and girls' health at every stage of their lives—starting with increasing child survival rates.
- increase women's economic opportunity and decision-making power.
- strengthen positive social norms about gender equality.
- collect and analyze better data to ensure women are counted and considered in policymaking—including supporting advocates to ensure that gender equality is prioritized by decision-makers.
- increase pathways to leadership for women.
Everyone is worthy of opportunity, health, and dignity. Women deserve the right to be healthy, make their own choices, earn and manage their own money, and fully participate in all decision-making.
Too often, people living in low-income communities have few opportunities and little power to improve their lives. These disadvantages are magnified for women and girls, many of whom have little say in the decisions that affect their lives, their families, and their communities. Structural barriers such as discriminatory laws and restrictive policies limit their participation in the economy and their earning power. Harmful social norms and outdated expectations further deny them control over their own lives, including their education, health care, marital and reproductive choices, employment, and family financial decisions.
When the barriers are removed and women and girls can thrive, when the potential of half the world’s population is unlocked, a powerful force for progress is ignited that benefits everyone. Evidence from dozens of emerging economies tells a clear and compelling story: When money flows into the hands of women, and when those women have the power to decide when and how to spend it, their lives and the lives of their families improve.
In Ethiopia, we partner with Adolescents 360 on a program called Smart Start. In rural areas with deep-seated traditions of early marriage and early pregnancy, Smart Start empowers adolescent girls to think differently about how many children they want to have and when they want to have them.
What makes Smart Start unique—and so effective—is that it’s designed by adolescent girls for adolescent girls. It starts with the things young married girls and their husbands care about—healthy kids, a more prosperous future—and helps them understand how family planning fits into that future. Smart Start helps these couples set goals—like a new ox or a new house or more savings—and connects them with the family planning tools that can help them achieve those goals.
COVID-19 has spurred unprecedented growth in the number of accounts that support government-to-person social protection payments.
About 477 million of these accounts were opened over the past two years, including 262 million by women.
About 80 million women—nearly equal to the population of Germany—opened their first bank account to receive social protection payments during the pandemic.
Huge gaps in gender data leave the true scale of gender inequality unknown.
Sexist and incomplete data are among the biggest challenges facing gender equality efforts. To build solutions that benefit women and girls, we need an accurate picture of the lived experiences of women and girls.
Without concerted action, gender inequality will persist throughout our lifetimes, causing unnecessary hardship and diminishing the lives of women—particularly marginalized women—and prevent future generations from reaching their full potential.
The deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is drawing near.
The Gender Equality Division looks closely at how gender plays into every issue the foundation touches. Our mandate is to guarantee that gender equality is not just part of our collective agenda—it is our agenda.
The stakes are too high for gender equality to remain at the bottom of priority lists in country after country.
Our work is informed by, implemented with, and dependent on our partners. As a philanthropy, our role is to listen to and learn from these experts. We also build on our strengths as a foundation in areas such as global health and data to determine where we can add the most value.
Many outstanding organizations are pursuing gender equality in high-income nations; our focus is on women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We work to identify and better understand their most urgent needs, and we seek out partners who are doing that work in their own communities. We also use data to measure and improve the impact of interventions for women and girls, which enables our partners to develop and fund more projects that make a difference.
Everyone who works toward gender equality has unique value to bring to these complex and connected challenges. Our strategy focuses on areas that our partners and our research indicate will help the whole sector move forward. Together, we focus on dismantling the gender-specific barriers that individuals face, wherever they occur and at every stage of life.
Gender equality resources
Gender Equality Toolbox
The foundation’s Gender Equality Toolbox provides tools that can guide foundation staff and partners in designing and managing gender-intentional and gender-transformative programs and investments and measuring the results and impact.