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In this challenging and inspiring must-read, Melinda Gates’ message is straight forward: Women and children are suffering all over the world, from the bustling city streets of the USA to the simplest huts in India. Gates has discovered over and over in her travels close to home and far afield that one of the most accurate determinants of a child’s health is the educational status of the mother.

Gates grew up in a household where space launches were a big deal. Her father, an aerospace engineer, worked on the Apollo program. The ‘moment of lift’ for a space launch is one of Gates’ thrilling childhood memories.

Fast-forward many years, and Gates embraces the significance of the ‘moment of lift’ to go far beyond the launching of a rocket ship to moments that have the potential to be life-saving. Gates, together with her husband Bill, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, disperse billions of dollars to alleviate global poverty.

Gates firmly believes that investing in education for boys and girls is an investment in the health of their children into the next generation. Gates has witnessed “moments of lift” that have changed despair to hope and optimism for women and their children and subsequently for the men and husbands in communities as well. Women who can read and write do better navigating health, financial, and legal systems. They are able to advocate for themselves.

Poverty, observes Gates, is created by barriers. Barriers are created by fear. In a healthy society, there are no outsiders. The circle is wide. She honors the stories of Malala Yousafzai, Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Gates, a practicing Catholic, also challenges the long-held papal injunctions against the use of contraceptives. Contraception education is crucial for girls and women who suffer under the burden of multiple unplanned pregnancies that often result in child malnutrition and death as well as compromised maternal health. Her message includes the promotion of grassroots midwifery programs all around the world as well as legal commitments against child and teen marriages.

Within her own country, Gates expresses her frustration with an administration that “uses policy to shrink the conversations, suppress voices and allows the powerful to impose their will on the poor.”

Gates acknowledges the stability of her own life together with her husband and their children. She gives thought to the ‘unpaid’ work of raising children, which most often is taken up by the mother. One chapter is devoted to encouraging equal partnerships in marriages and building healthy home environments. As parents, the Gateses are deliberate about inviting their children into their work at home and globally.

This book inspires one to be an agent of change but is also challenging because of the systemic complexities of wealth and poverty. But ultimately, Moment of Lift makes me hopeful. (Macmillan)

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