Community & Government

Melinda’s Journal: Kolkata, India, 2004

Melinda French Gates

Lesson time 01:18 min

In this entry from her diary, Melinda recounts her visit to a village of Indian sex workers and how the experience helped her understand women’s empowerment more deeply.

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Topics include: Melinda's Journal: Kolkata, India, 2004


MELINDA: Kolkata, India, January 2004. Today was really hard. I met with a group of sex workers as part of the foundation's Avahan program to talk about HIV prevention. At least, that's what I thought we were going to talk about. Instead, the women wanted to talk about the stigma of sex work, about how hard their lives were, and about their hopes and worries for their children. What struck me, the most, though, was how much these women wanted to touch and be touched. Nobody in the community touches sex workers, except to have sex with them. No matter what caste they're from, sex workers are untouchable. As devastating as it was to hear their stories, it was also inspiring and incredibly illuminating. We thought we were running a public health program, but we've stumbled onto something else, the power of women coming together, finding their voices, and speaking up for their rights. We're funding women's empowerment.

About the Instructor

One of the greatest philanthropists in history, Melinda French Gates has dedicated her life to giving back to the world. Now she’s teaching how you can identify your own unique assets—time, money, specific skills, or even your voice to discover a strategic path that can turn your power into progress.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Melinda French Gates

A philanthropist and advocate for women and girls, Melinda French Gates teaches you how to take what you’re good at and use it to create change.

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