‘The Need Is So Great’:Tsitsi Masiyiwa On New Gender Fund

IN MARCH, AFRICAN PHILANTHROPIST AND SOCIAL entrepreneur, Tsitsi Masiyiwa, and other world philanthropists came together to raise $1 billion to advance gender equality and women’s leadership. The organization, Co-Impact, launched The Gender Fund to bring significant resources into a grossly underfunded space and address “gendered systems” – the underlying norms, laws, practices, sanctions, and decision-making processes that lead to systematic barriers and persistent discrimination against women and girls.

According to the organization, “while funding for gender equality has been rising over the last decade, only 1% of that funding has reached women’s organizations”.

Masiyiwa spoke to FORBES AFRICA about the fund stating that what attracted her to the initiative is the big focus on women.

“I believe that the world is made a better place when there’s justice and inclusivity. In the world, everybody has the potential to thrive. So, the attraction was number one, the agenda that we are focusing on women and girls and empowering, encouraging them to go into places of leadership, encouraging them to use their voices, and exercise their power. So that really inspired me,” Masiyiwa says.

According to Co-Impact, this kind of fund aims to transform systems to be “more just and inclusive” so that at least 100 million people have better healthcare, quality education, and the opportunity to thrive – regardless of their gender, class, ethnicity, or race. The fund will support organizations across Africa, Asia and Latin America to advance their vision for change.

“And as an African, I said to myself,” Masiyiwa adds, “I may not have the kind of dollars that some of the partners are bringing in. But what’s important is if we’re going to have a seat at the table and have our voices heard, we have to also have skin in the game.”

Masiyiwa says her philanthropist spirit began at the same time her husband, Strive Masiyiwa, London-based Zimbabwean billionaire businessman and philanthropist, wanted to set up a mobile telephone company.

In the midst of this, Masiyiwa and her family were also going through some personal setbacks.

“During that time, we had the AIDS pandemic. And I saw a lot of my family members, neighbors, employees [impacted]. And combined with that, I think it got me to do some deep soul-searching and go on a spiritual journey, which landed the best way because I found that I could express my compassion and love and deal with the difficulties and the pain through helping others who are more vulnerable,” she says.

Besides Masiyiwa, other collaborators of the fund include Melinda French Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and Indian billionaire Roshni Nadar Malhotra, just to name a few.

In a press statement, Olivia Leland, Founder and CEO of Co-Impact, says the mission of the fund is to deliver on the ambition of a world where system and societies are just and inclusive.

“To make progress on gender equality, we need systemic change in the structures, laws, and policies and processes of government, in how markets function, and how social norms are shaped and enforced,” Leland says.

“We need change to happen at every level of society. And it starts with opening more doors for women to step into their power and craft policies that lift others up like them. This is our once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our systems to finally work for women and girls,” Melinda Gates added in the statement.

“Why gender fund?” Masiyiwa tells us.

“Because the need is so great. The need is now. The need is massive and to not do anything is doing a huge disservice to the next generation. So we owe it to the younger generation.”

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