Melinda Gates's crusade for an equal world for women

If somebody had asked me to guess what Melinda Gates's book is about, my answer would have been "It's an autobiography" - which means it would have flown off the shelfs by virtue of who she is. However, she penned a book that is a cry for an equal world where women's lives are not defined by gender roles and children have access to healthcare and education regardless of their backgr ounds.

"All lives, no matter where, are equal but that is not the case," she says, during a conversation about her book, The Moment Of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.

As I drove to the event, hosted by publishers Pan Macmillan and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in downtown Johannesburg on October 29, I thought to myself, "this will probably be one of those events where the wealthy pledge billions for the poor and simply move on with their lives".

I had read one article years back about Gates advocating for contraceptives for poor women in Africa and Asia but nothing much about her or her work.

But as I sat through the conversation she had with broadcaster and author Redi Tlhabi, I was pleasantly surprised as Gates came across as honest, with a compassionate approach to the plight of poor women she had met during her world travels.

She said when she and her husband, Bill Gates, learnt that hundreds of kids were dying of preventable diseases in developing countries because of lack of vaccines they decided to help as they believed "no child must die because their parents are poor".

However, they were worried about how to ensure that their assistance reached the people who needed it.

She later decided to travel to meet the mothers who were benefiting from the immunisation programmes funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with various organisations around the world.

She met women who were grateful for their babies getting their shots but frustrated by health facilities running out of contraceptives.