Here are 10 pivotal quotes by Melinda Gates as told to Redi Tlhabi, plus Melinda shares profoundly personal details about her family in her book

Melinda Gates with Red Tlhabi. Image: Lubabalo Lesolle
Melinda Gates with Red Tlhabi. Image: Lubabalo Lesolle
Lubabalo Lesolle

Melinda Gates is the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private philanthropic organisation, and her advocacy work has seen her travel across the globe for the last 20 years. 

She’s encountered dejected women who are marginalised and oppressed, not only in a political context but also by virtue of being citizens of impoverished parts of the world. Through her philanthropy, she works to formulate solutions for thousands of these women.

A computer science and MBA graduate, Melinda spent the first decade of her career developing multimedia products for Microsoft, where she met her husband Bill at the company parking lot.

In her compelling book, THE MOMENT OF LIFT: How Empowering Women Changes the World, the philanthropist, and businesswoman, shares how she came  to the decision to leave Microsoft and commit her time and expertise to their foundation. 

READ MORE: Women university graduates in the U.S. now make up more than half of the workforce - this is how SA women fair

She also delves deep into how the stories of the women she’s encountered have shaped the work of the foundation as well as how she’s advocated for equality, even in her own home.

The book addresses pressing issues such as child marriage, access to contraceptives, and gender equality in the workplace. It also challenges the culture of dominance and encourages women to lift each other up, “not to replace men at the top of the hierarchy, but to become partners with men to end hierarchy”.

"It is a delicate thing to initiate change in a traditional culture. It has to be done with the utmost care and respect."
Melinda Gates

THE MOMENT OF LIFT: How Empowering Women Changes the World is also a profoundly personal book, touching on previously untold stories about Melinda’s marriage to Bill, the early days of their relationship, and family life with their three children, Jenn, Rory and Phoebe.

From how her first date with Bill came about, Bill driving their children to school, to giving her children household chores, including these parts of her life in the book and sharing about them in the conversation with Redi was not an easy decision to make for Melinda. She is private, so much that she was even hesitant to take a public role at the foundation in earlier years, but it was a necessity that she shares her own story too, for two reasons.

She explains the choice in her book: “First, I believe that women gain equality not couple by couple but by changing the culture, and we can change the culture by sharing our stories, that’s why I’m sharing mine.

"Second, I’m sharing my story because it seems false to me to work on issues in the world while pretending I have them solved in my own life. I need to be open about my flaws, or I may fall into the conceit of thinking I’m here on earth to solve other people’s problems.”

READ MORE: Femvertising: a step in the right direction or just ‘faux feminism’?

THE MOMENT OF LIFT: How Empowering Women Changes the World, is a heart-wrenching, incredibly honest account of the world as seen through the eyes of compromised women seeking equality, and Melinda’s own efforts for equality, even from her vastly privileged position.

She is candid, weaving empathy, and inspiring courage in the hope that the book will steer its readers to provide a platform for others to be heard, even from the micro levels of society.

"I believe that all lives are equal. That all men and women are created equal. That everyone belongs. That everyone has rights, and everyone has the right to flourish. I believe that when people who are bound by the rules have no role in shaping the rules, moral blind spots become the law, and the powerless bear the burden."
Melinda Gates

Here are ten of the most pivotal, thought-provoking quotes from this advocate for women, which she shared with Redi during her conversation on her book while Melinda was in Johannesburg, as well as some which are quoted from her book. 

1 - Melinda encourages women to be of service to each other. She says, "I want everyone to know that ... one person can make a difference in someone else's life, and we should all do that."

2 – Paying homage for Graça Machel, who attended the conversation event, Melinda credited her for being supportive of the Gates' philanthropic work. "I learnt the significance of showing up for each other [as women] and to listen to the stories of women from Graça Machel."

3 - In her book, she explains her view on balancing the scales of gender equality, saying, "I've never held the view that women are better than men, or that the best way to improve the world is for women to gain more power than men. I think male dominance is harmful to society because any dominance is harmful: It means society is governed by a false hierarchy where power and opportunity are awarded according to gender, age, wealth, and privilege- not according to skill, effort, talent or accomplishments."

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4 - In her travels across the globe, Melinda has encountered numerous atrocities against women and children, here's how she deals with the pain of what she witnesses. She says, "I'm outraged about some of the things that happen to young girls, and sometimes young boys... you have to take those stories in... you have to let your heart break. I have been, many times, in tears... and it's my job to take that, go back home to Seattle and figure out what is our foundation's role and what we can do in partnership with others to help."

5 – It doesn't take a lot of money or power to be of service. Melinda encourages society to adopt a habit of being of assistance to those in need. She says, "If you have any means, what is it that you can do to help somebody else, lift someone else up in the world. None of us get where we are without someone else helping us along the way."

6 - Speaking on gender-based violence, Melinda referenced the horrific killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana. She says, "Women and girls' issues are some of the hardest to work on... this is an incredibly difficult issue. Everybody has a right to be an advocate, to speak out about it... It takes all of us, it takes people working together and everyone working in collaboration... It takes power, commitment, and will. And this country [South Africa] has power, commitment and will... we have to say, 'how do we organise ourselves to bring change for women all around?' Let's measure ourselves and hold ourselves accountable." 

7 - Melinda values access to quality education for girls and women, she says, "If a girl stays in school, her chances of climbing out of poverty, her chances of educating her sons and daughters are so much higher."

READ MORE: E-learning: the future of education?

8 - In many parts of the world, women are subjected to unpaid (and unappreciated) labour, something which Melinda has encountered on many occasions. Speaking on this issue, she says, "Our economies are built on the back of women's unpaid labour... this is the issue we have to look at all over the world... We have to look at this in our own homes."

9 - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is very active in securing access to contraceptives for women. Melinda believes that access to contraception gives women power and concedes that in her own life, it played a significant role in planning her family. About how the foundation educates women on the use of contraceptives, she says, "It has to be done with that women fully educated about her body and reproduction rights..."

10 - Every year, Melinda chooses a word as her theme for the year. She shared her word for this year, saying, "My word for 2019 is 'shine' - not for me to shine but for us to all make sure that everyone in the world can turn on their light and shine."

*Melinda will donate all proceeds from the sale of the book to charity.

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