13 February 2018

Africa: Trump Should Treat Women 'With More Respect', Say Bill and Melinda Gates

London — "Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit."

U.S. President Donald Trump should treat people - especially women - with more respect, and continue investments in poorer countries for the sake of global security, the world's leading philanthropic couple Bill and Melinda Gates said on Tuesday.

In their annual open letter answering questions about their foundation, they criticised Trump's proposed cuts to foreign aid, and said he had a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and policies.

"I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets," Melinda Gates said in the letter.

"Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country's spirit."

During the 2016 election campaign against Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump was criticized for insulting women, and for his remarks, captured on video, in which he bragged about groping them.

The letter, in which Bill and Melinda Gates set out to answer "the 10 toughest questions" they get about their philanthropic endeavours, also took aim at Trump's plans to cut money spent to fight disease and poverty abroad.

"These efforts save lives ... And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics," Bill Gates said.

"The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry."

Trump's proposed slashing of funds for diplomacy and foreign aid faced resistance in Congress on Monday, as fellow Republicans joined Democrats in opposing cuts to what they see as key "soft power" spending in the face of global threats.

The administration wants $37.8 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That marks a reduction of about one-third from 2017 spending.

Trump's policies rolling back birth control and equal pay protections have propelled many women into activism for the first time, campaigners say.

Last month hundreds of thousands of women and male supporters took to the streets of New York, Washington and other cities for a series of Women's March protests that marked the first anniversary of Trump's inauguration.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established by the Microsoft Corp co-founder and his wife Melinda, is one of the largest private charities in the world.

The group has made its mark promoting vaccine use, and battling diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Robert Carmichael.

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