It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 20 years since Bill and Melinda Gates created their Gates Foundation, one of the biggest and most impactful philanthropic organizations to emerge from the tech industry.
And in their 12th annual letter on Monday, on Monday, the Gateses reflect on those 20 years and discuss what they want to do in the coming years to help address some of the world’s biggest problems. They also shared that in that 20 years, they’ve deployed $53.8 billion in funds to tackle charitable and global health initiatives.
From a focus on global health to improving the climate, education, and gender equality, there were plenty of things Bill and Melinda Gates had to say in this year’s annual letter.
Here are a few of the many takeaways from this year’s letter:
A Focus on Global Health
According to the Gateses, 86 percent of children around the world currently receive basic immunizations. And their goal is to get those immunizations to the remaining 14 percent. However, they note that actually getting those immunizations to those children will be extremely difficult.
Those efforts have paid off: vaccinations have saved 14 million lives around the world, according to the foundation. A single vaccination also used to cost $3.65. It now costs less than $1 to vaccinate children.
But they acknowledge their work is far from done. They plan to continue to invest in HIV/AIDS treatment and making it easier to prevent the spread of the virus. But the work doesn’t stop there, according to Bill Gates. And the Gates Foundation will also tackle other major health concerns.
“Along with our investments in vaccines and HIV, we will continue to support progress on other diseases, like malaria, tuberculosis, and polio (through our partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” Bill Gates wrote. “We’ll fund new advances in family planning and maternal and newborn health, and we’ll explore new ways of preventing the scourge of malnutrition.”
Trying to improve education has proven to be one of the biggest challenges facing the Gates Foundation, according to the Gateses. But their work is far from done.
They said that they plan to continue to invest in education and have so far awarded $240 million grants for 30 networks of schools that aim at improving graduation rates and postsecondary opportunities for African American, Latinx, and low-income students.
“Each network includes eight to 20 schools and is focused on a goal of its choosing–for example, helping freshmen who aren’t “on track” to graduate get themselves on the right path,” Bill Gates says. “The first year of high school is a critical moment. A freshman who fails no more than one course is four times more likely to graduate than one who fails two or more. Being ‘on track’ in this way is more predictive of whether that student will graduate than race, wealth, or even test scores.”
Looking ahead, the Gateses say they want their foundation to not focus on a “one-size-fits-all” solution for schools. Instead, they want to find the right solutions based on each school’s unique needs.
Melinda Gates began her discussion on gender and why it matters to much to her with powerful words: “The data is unequivocal: No matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are born a girl.”
It’s against that backdrop that the Gates Foundation is working towards improving gender equality around the world. Melinda Gates said in her discussion that “the world has refused to make gender equality a priority.” And she wants the Gates Foundation to address that problem.
To do that, she said, she wants to up the pace at which women take on positions of leadership across government and business. She also wants to eliminate barriers to entry for women entering the workforce.
“We need to be deliberate about galvanizing a wide range of partners to play a role in changing society’s norms and expectations–not just the activists and advocates who are already leading these conversations, but consumers, shareholders, faith leaders, entertainers, fathers, and husbands,” Melinda Gates wrote.
Read the full letter from Bill and Melinda Gates here.