Alaa Murabit

Closing the gender gap

2 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

To many people, the struggle to provide women with appropriate health care means the struggle for reproductive rights. But women’s health needs go way beyond childbearing, and Dr. Alaa Murabit is trying to widen the lens on how to provide women around the world with effective health care. As director of global health advocacy and communications at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she’s reframing women’s health as a fundamental necessity for a growing economy. “It’s time for all of us to be speaking about this not as a favor to women,” she says, “but as a necessity for our own growth and prosperity.”

According to a recent McKinsey report, closing the health gap between men and women could boost global GDP by at least $1 trillion a year by 2040. Murabit’s finding a way to put money where her mouth is and has so far raised $300 million from a group of philanthropists—with commitments for millions more—for the Beginnings Fund, a collaborative effort which will “address end to end what kind of resources and support women would need at the point of care at country level,” says Murabit. For some countries, that could be as simple as providing basic, clean supplies for a medical office; in the U.S., it might be more about increasing investment in research and development on menopause. For Murabit, women’s ability to take care of their own bodies is ultimately about power. “It’s the power to be able to use that body to be an economic vehicle for yourself, your family, or your community,” she says. “It’s the power to use that body to then have political influence.”

Correction, May 5:

The original version of this story misstated the amount raised for The Beginnings Fund. Murabit has raised $300 million, with additional commitments, not $550 million.

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