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

Improved access to contraceptives has lasting benefits.

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

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.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."