How Melinda Gates' own history helped shape the billionaire's philanthropy.

Improved access to contraceptives has lasting benefits.

One of the wealthiest women on earth, Melinda Gates, recently opened up about an unexpected secret to her success: contraceptives.

The 52-year-old billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist detailed her intersection of personal and professional success in a blog post for Fortune. In it, she talks about the importance of making contraception available to women around the world, one of the core issues being addressed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In doing so, she touches on how important family planning resources were in her own success.

"It’s no accident that my three kids were born three years apart — or that I didn’t have my first child until I'd finished graduate school and devoted a decade to my career at Microsoft," she wrote. "My family, my career, my life as I know it are all the direct result of contraceptives. And now, I realize how lucky that makes me."


President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Melinda Gates for their work fighting poverty in 2016. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

In 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to bring contraception to 120 million women around the world.

The bold strategy, part of the group's Family Planning 2020 initiative, highlights the role that access to birth control has in lifting developing countries out of poverty. In July 2012, the foundation committed to spending more than $1 billion toward contraception access and information. In November 2015, the group committed an additional $120 million to the program.

The 2015 boost was intended to focus on three specific priorities: improving the quality of services and increasing the number of contraceptive options, reaching marginalized committees, and investing in local advocates around the globe to make the case for using family planning services.

In the foundation's most recent annual letter, they recommitted themselves to meeting 2012's ambitious goal. That matters.

While an additional 30.2 million women have access to contraception because of the Gates Foundation's work, they're a little behind the pace needed to hit the 120 million goal.

Copyright 2010 Gates Notes, LLC.

But they've got a plan, and it involves making the most of emerging technologies and long-term birth control solutions, as well as increasing their public advocacy. Overall, the family planning aspect of the Gates Foundation's work is just part of their overall campaign, which also includes improving access to vaccines, reducing infant mortality, and reducing malnutrition in developing countries.

Access to family planning is an essential component of any anti-poverty program.

"When a country sends a generation of healthy, well-educated young people into the workforce, it’s on its way out of poverty," Melinda explained in the foundation's letter. "But this doesn’t happen by accident. No country in the last 50 years has emerged from poverty without expanding access to contraceptives."

On Twitter, she posted a short video explaining how family planning triggers a "virtuous cycle."

With President Trump's reinstatement of the global gag rule, the Gates Foundation's renewed commitment to making contraception accessible is more important than ever.

In one of his first acts as president, Trump reinstated the so-called "global gag rule," a Reagan-era policy that restricts U.S. funding to organizations that so much as mention abortion as part of their family planning services. At risk is roughly $9.5 billion in global health funding. In a move that is ostensibly meant to reduce abortion, the likely result is a decrease in overall family planning services for women around the world, meaning more unplanned pregnancies, which means, yes, more abortions.

In recent years, the U.S. has seen its teen pregnancy rate drop by 25% for two really simple reasons: increasing access to contraception and improved sex education. After making access to long-term birth control available for free, Colorado saw its own teen pregnancy rate drop by 40%!

In her letter, Gates explained how she came to understand the global need for contraceptive access beyond her own personal experience.

"Most of the women I talk to in the field bring up contraceptives. I remember visiting the home of a mother in Niger named Sadi, whose six children were competing for her attention as we talked. She told me, 'It wouldn’t be fair for me to have another child. I can’t afford to feed the ones I have,'" Gates wrote.

"In a Kenyan slum, I met a young mother named Mary who had a business selling backpacks from scraps of blue-jean fabric. She invited me into her home, where she was sewing and watching her two small children. She used contraceptives because, she said, 'Life is tough.' I asked if her husband supported her decision. She said, 'He knows life is tough, too.'"

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

For more information on the Gates Foundation's work getting contraceptives to women in developing countries, check out the video below.

While Upworthy has a proud partnership with The Gates Foundation, I was not paid by the foundation to write this article.

More

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture