The Moment of Lift is a book written by Melinda Gates. 

Wow…wow…wow….what a thought-provoking read! It invokes happiness, sadness, anger. It inspires hope to lift those who need us. 

Melinda Gates – I always thought of her as the wife of Bill Gates, the billionaire who also runs the Gates foundation, a one-of- a-kind charity foundation that does amazing work in the prevention of infectious diseases. But this was ignorance. Once I read the book, I learnt a lot more about her and now when I think of her, I think of Melinda Gates as herself –a  powerful woman who does powerful work and is changing this world for the better. She is breaking the traditions holding women back in developing parts of the world and thus lifting society as a whole. 

About the Moment of Lift

In this book, Melinda describes her journey, where she started, and how she progressed and is still evolving and growing each day. Being a woman and women’s health advocate all my life, her words resonated with my core. She talked about many issues surrounding women around the world and how they impact these women and hinder them. The reason we’re talking about The Moment of Life is because more women need to know what’s out there in the world. Being aware is the first step towards any effort to create change. 

The first chapter got me hooked – and it’s an issue I feel strongly passionate about; birth control and family planning. Women should be in charge of their own sexual and reproductive life. They should be the decision makers when they want to get pregnant. Denying women access to contraception deprives them of that right.

Birth Control

In many parts of the world, millions of women cannot obtain basic birth control. Health centers have only condoms—which men often refuse to use. Women can get beaten if they ask men to use condoms. When Melinda gates was traveling in Africa, educating people about childhood vaccinations, women would come to her and ask her if “there’s shot” for birth control. Initially, she didn’t understand: she thought they were asking about vaccinations for themselves. Then she realized they were asking about the Depo-Provera shot, the birth-control shot. It’s given once every 13 weeks. The shot means women don’t have to depend on men to use condoms. Sometimes, women walk all day to get the shot at a health center. Sometimes, they arrive to find the shots aren’t available. 

Child Marriage and Early Childbirth

Girls as young as seven or eight are married and many of them have children just after having their first period. It is heartbreaking; these girls are children themselves! Having a child at that age—your body and mind are not ready. Many girls are married and sent to a different village far away, their faces covered on the journey so they can’t run back to their families. When girls get pregnant at such young ages, the pregnancy is very high risk. There is an increased risk of fetal growth restriction, infections, and fetal and maternal mortality. Since their pelvis is not fully developed for childbirth, there is much higher risk of labor dystocia, in which the fetus gets stuck in the pelvis. This can cause fetal death during labor and the development of a fistula in the mother. Once a woman develops a fistula and has fecal incontinence, she is sometimes shunned by her husband because there is stool in the vagina. All of this can be prevented by simply waiting until girls are old enough, physically mature,  before marriage.

Female Circumcision

Genital cutting—referred to as ‘female circumcision’ in medical terms— is brutal. I have seen patients who have gone through these procedures and I have cried with them. They suffer with pain for the rest of their lives. There are various degrees of female circumcision: at the age of five or six, girls will experience cutting off atleast part of the clitoris and sometimes stitching the vagina closed to some varying extent. The idea is for women to bleed when they have sexual intercourse for the first time,  to prove their virginity. But this practice raises so many questions…

Girls lose a lot of blood during genital mutilation procedures and, if not done under sterile conditions, poor wound healing and infections occur. It leaves them scarred and traumatized for the test of their life. A young child should never experience this trauma. Melinda Gates worked with some communities and, with the help of some brave people, is working to put an end to female circumcision. 

The Property Rights of Women

In many parts of the world, women have no right to their husbands’ property after being widowed. Daughters are also not legally able to inherit property. Now is good time to share my own story:

My dad passed away 11 years ago and he had made some fixed bequests to my mother, brother and me. After all the final rites were over, my mother asked me to sign the papers so my brother could either transfer the money to himself or withdraw it all. I really didn’t think anything of it. Knowing my brother, I knew that he would choose to allocate the money appropriately among the family. We have a strong bond and both of us have been very fortunate in our life to not be dependent on our parents’ money. Until now, I never thought about that.

Reading the book made me realize that these practices are so intrinsic to our society, in our roots—to the point that my mother, who loves us both dearly, thought it right to transfer all the money to my brother. My brother and I, an educated woman, took it for granted that he would take charge of the money meant for each of us. I have decided though, that this will not happen with my daughter. 

Equal Partnership

Gates talks about the beautiful concept of equal partnership. Every marriage is different; every relationship is different. The basis of every relationship should be love and respect for each other; treating the other as an equal. She talks about her own marriage. Being married to a very successful and strong man, sometimes she had to find her own voice, but she did it. It made me recall my own journey with love and marriage:

I met my husband in medical school. We dated for a long time, and when he asked me to marry him, I remember telling him that I don’t want a husband to take care of me—I  can do it myself. I do want a friend and a companion for the rest of my life, so if you can be my friend for life then it’s a yes. He has stayed true to his words to this day. He helps me take care of the house, our children and my medical practice, and I do the same when it comes to his business and work. It is a true partnership. 

Gender Bias in Agriculture: Female Farmers

In the agriculture industry, there are actually more women than men. Female farmers, compared to male farmers, have several disadvantages: they don’t have land registered in their names, they are given poor quality seeds and have no access to new technology. Governments in several countries have educational courses, but classes are held when women are taking care of the children; as a result, they don’t know about best practices.

Many issues stem from women not being given opportunities to hold important positions. Decision-makers are men. In most of the communities where religious leaders are the decision-makers, they are predominantly men. Reflecting on this, I realized that I have not come across any female priest in my entire life. When I raised the question with my family and friends, very few had ever met a female priest—and   many had never paid attention to that. We still have not had a female president yet.

Women’s Unpaid Work

 On average around the world, women spend more hours working and have less leisure time. Time that women spend doing household chores is not accounted for when economists make their calculations for data compilation.

Sex workers are often abused sexually and physically. With the exception of a very few locations worldwide, they have no rights.

Girls’ education is also restricted. In many parts of the world, girls don’t get the same education as the boys because they are married off instead.

Women in the workplace is another factor. Even in developed countries, women are treated differently in the workplace. 

At the end of the book, Gates mentions the importance of female mentors, friends and get-togethers. Women should get together, even in a group of two, share what they are going through and help each other and help others in need. Women don’t want to be above men, they want to be alongside men, because that’s 

where we belong. Men are very important in our lives. I can say that I am very grateful to all the wonderful men in my life—beginning with a loving and supportive father (who passed away in 2011), husband, brother, son and few male friends. I’m grateful every day for their love and support. 

It’s a true lift when everyone is lifted up, both women and men together.  Disclaimer: I have no association financially with the author or the publisher of the book and have not been paid to write this. This is solely my personal view of the book.