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“When a woman thrives, a community thrives”: Melinda French Gates on how gender inequality is at the root of societal issues

By Eliza Sörman Nilsson
philanthropist  Melinda French Gates & Lina Thomsgård

Photo: Benjamin Tarp

Recently in Stockholm, philanthropist Melinda French Gates sat down with Vogue Scandinavia to have an exclusive chat about her strategy to empower women and lift 100 million people out of poverty

In 2015, philanthropist Melinda French Gates found herself in India talking to women in a self-help group. Five years prior, her foundation, The Gates Foundation, had started giving these women funds as a tool to help them out of poverty. “There was one woman I met, Neelam,” French Gates recalls. “She said, ‘If you’d have come here five years ago, nobody in this entire community would know my name. And now everybody knows my name.’”

When Neelam and the other women in the group started to get a little bit of economic support in their hands, they were not only able to help their families, they finally had a taste of empowerment and – more importantly – dignity.

“She said, ‘My allocation in the home was essentially in the ash pile. I didn't even have money for soap.’ She added, ‘When my mother-in-law saw that I had a little bit more economic means that I could buy soap and clean myself up, she moved me to a different place in the house.’”