The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

NOTE: Several years ago I posted two books reviews by Nicholas Kristof and his wife/partner Sheryl WuDunn. They feature women in mostly developing countries who do the bulk of the work in their families with few tools to help them. Here are the links to my reviews:…of-sheryl-wudunn…of-sheryl-wudunn/



Melinda Gates’ new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, feels like a detailed updated version of the two books I reviewed (links above) several years ago. However, Melinda Gates’ viewpoint and writing style are different and the book was an excellent chronology of how she became involved with her husband Bill Gates (Via The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to help and to empower women in developing countries to be able to use contraception in order to space their children better for healthier lives, educate young girls to make better life choices, and work within the culture of the countries she visited to understand how to bring information to them that is acceptable.

Her book has so much excellent information and written with a great deal of humility, that the best way I can review it is to list some of the quotes I took from the book:

“If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”

“Poverty is not being able to protect your family. Poverty is not being able to save your children when mothers with more money could. And because the strongest instinct of a mother is to protect her children, poverty is the most disempowering force on earth

“As soon as we begin to spend more time understanding how people live their lives, we saw that so many barriers to advancement—and so many causes of isolation—can be traced to the limits on the lives of women.

“It hadn’t come as a revelation to me that women want contraceptives. I knew it from my own life, and it was one of the things we supported at the foundation. But after these trips, I began to see it as central, as the first priority for women.

“Contraceptives save the lives of mothers and newborns. Contraceptives also reduce abortion. As a result of contraceptive use, there were 26 million fewer unsafe abortions in the world’s poorest countries in just one year, according to the most recent data.”

Concerning women’s rights:  “I hope… that the fire that drives this defense of family planning fuels a campaign to advance all rights of women, all around the world—so that in the future, in country after country, more and more women will be in the room, sitting at the table, leading the conversation when the policies that affect our lives are made.”

“The lift that comes from sending girls like Sona to school is stunning……Sending girls to school leads to greater literacy, higher wages, faster income growth, and more productive farming…(only a few of the benefits es)

“Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world….For me, love is the effort to help others flourish—and it often begins with lifting up a person’s self-image.”

“When women can reduce the time they spend on unpaid work, they increase the time they spend on paid work. In fact, cutting women’s unpaid work from five hours a day to three boosts women’s participation in the labor force by about 20%.”

“Economist Diane Elson came up with a framework in order to help shrink time men spend on unpaid work compared with women. She calls is: recognize, reduce, redistribute.

  1. recognize the unpaid work being done
  2. reduce number of unpaid hours using cook stoves, washing machines, etc.
  3. redistribute work we can’t reduce so that men and women share it more equitably.”

Re: Equal partnership- “Ask this question: Does your primary relationship have love and respect and a sense of teamwork and belonging and mutual growth?”

Quote on p. 149 by her friend Killian, who runs the Recovery Café. “ To be known without being loved is terrifying. To be loved without being known has no power to change us. But to be deeply known and deeply loved transforms us.”

“So the goal for me is not the rise of women and the fall of man. It is the rise of both women and men from a struggle for dominance to a state of partnership.”

“Until the day we end all gender-based violence, we need stronger efforts to protect women ans girls. There is no equality without safety.”

“We started out thinking that poor farmers just needed better technology…..But the potential …was not only in the seeds; it was in the power of the women who plant them. This was a huge missed idea….If we want to help farmers, we have to empower women….”


I hope this sampling quotes will inspire you to read this book. Melinda Gates title came from two sources. One is that fact that her father worked in the space program in Texas and took his children to see lift offs into space. The second source was the phrase “moment of lift” from a book by Mark Nepo, which he uses to describe or capture a moment of grace. Additionally, this moment of lift is, according to Gates, a moment of wonder and curiosity, and her book shows her eagerness to know how lift actually happens, in this case, to women when they are empowered.  Excellent metaphor! Excellent book!

(Published by Macmillan Publishers, The Moment of Lift is available at bookstores and online.)





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