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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Women and Girls Back at the Heart of the Global Health Agenda

July 18, 2012

Last week in London, I was humbled and thrilled by the world’s commitment to put women and girls back at the heart of the global health agenda. It was an honor to express my own commitment to empowering women to lift up their families and communities and to announce our foundation’s additional investment of $560 million for this effort over the next eight years. But the most important announcements came from leaders of developing countries, who stepped up over the course of the day and pledged their commitment to ensure that an additional 120 million women have access to contraceptives by 2020.

Their enthusiasm shows that family planning is a high priority in the countries where many women and girls lack access, and that is the key to success in the long term.

Just days before the Summit, I traveled to Niger and Senegal to sit down with women and ask them about their lives. I cannot begin to convey what a difference these new investments will make in their lives. It’s really heart-breaking, and telling, to have women say to you “Why didn’t someone tell me about family planning earlier? I would only have had three children” or “Look how we are all suffering.” But after these visits, I am always left with an overwhelming sense of women’s resilience, and their hope for the future.

We know that reaching our goal by 2020 could result in 200,000 fewer women dying in pregnancy and childbirth and three million fewer babies dying in their first year of life. We must act to save those lives. Clearly, millions around the world agree and I couldn’t be more proud that we’re all in this together.

As I said at the summit, when you think about family planning from the perspective of the women who want to use it, everything changes. For millions of women and girls around the world, over the next eight years, so much will change for the better.  Though the hard work is just beginning, our foundation is in it for the long haul. With the help of our incredible partners in this effort – developing country governments and civil society, the UK government, UNFPA, you, and most importantly the women and girls who are willing to speak up when asked, “What does family planning mean to you?” – we will make it happen together.

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