Melinda Gates: Empower women via health education, services

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Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has called for women to be given better access to high-quality health education, health services and contraceptives.

“Nothing is more inspiring than a woman who finds the strength to raise her voice again and again until people are forced to listen and respond. To me, that’s what the fight for women’s empowerment looks like,” Gates, whose husband is American billionaire, Bill Gates, told a session at the Women Deliver conference in Malaysia.

“Women who have the power to decide when to get pregnant also have the power to make a better future,” she added.

Asked about how much of an obstacle religious fundamentalism is to family planning, Gates told Al Arabiya English that imams at the highest and lowest levels understand its necessity, but the message is not being disseminated properly.

“We have to talk to religious leaders in the right way. We have to make sure that they spread the right messages,” she said, adding that “people need to stand up and say ‘this is what’s right.’ Men need to say ‘this is right for my wife’.”

Gates said the reason her foundation invests in family planning and access to contraceptives is due to listening to women in rural areas of Africa, Asia and the United States.

The U.N. Population Fund said in 2012 that four in 10 married women of reproductive age living in Arab countries use modern contraception.

However, 77 percent of maternal deaths occur in Yemen, Sudan and Somalia, where there is an unmet need for family planning.
This means that women are not able to space or delay giving birth, which inevitably causes health problems that may lead to their death.

“Empowered women and girls will save lives, make families more prosperous, and help the poorest countries in the world build stronger economies,” Gates wrote prior to the conference.

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