I first became fascinated with Melinda Gates when I saw a TedTalk she had done concerning the importance of birth control for women in the developing world. She was passionate about the idea that women should be able to control when and how many children they should have. Less children for a poor woman meant that her children would have a better chance for education and eat more nutritious meals. She also addressed the influence of the Catholic church regarding birth control as she was raised Catholic, had aunts that were nuns and attended parochial schools. The video can be found here.
Contraception and prevention of unintended pregnancies has been a cause I speak to patients about daily in my practice. Nationally, the issue of abortion could be a non-issue if each pregnancy was a planned event. Contraception is of even more importance to women in the developing world, where maternal age at first childbirth is much younger and women are burdened with far more physical labor and inadequate nutrition during pregnancy. Now I have found someone who speaks much more eloquently than I and is associated with a famous name who can advocate for contraception on the international stage. Even more important to me is that Melinda Gates didn’t need to take on such a contentious issue. Given her famous husband and previous career as a software engineer, there are many more glamorous topics that she could have pursued. But by lending her name and financial backing (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) to increase awareness and innovation in contraceptive methods, she has affected the lives of innumerable women and their unborn children. These women will never know who Melinda is, but they will know that they have more education and access to contraceptive methods than their mothers did.
Now others have the opportunity to be a smaller version of Melinda Gates. As part of the 2015 Gates Annual Letter, Melinda and Bill Gates have created globalcitizen.org as a way to increase awareness, raise money and motivate others to volunteer their time for those global citizens who are less well off. Rather than responding to a specific natural disaster, such as a tsunami or earthquake, we are made aware of the day to day suffering that poverty or disease can cause. And imagine the conversation that you can start during a lull in the dinner talk with your friends – something about the newest injectable contraceptive being trialed in rural African villages, how malaria may become eradicated in the next 15 years, the benefit of drought resistant corn to subsistence farmers in Subsahara Africa. The possibilities are endless and you will be known as the life of the party. Please consider signing on as a global citizen and creating awareness both for yourself and others.