By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - P hilanthropists pledged millions of dollars to fund U.N. data gathering on Thursday, saying it was vital to learn more about the world's women to tackle the poverty that disproportionately affects them.
Pledges totaling $34 million were unveiled during a side event of the United Nations annual General Assembly, a week-long meeting in New York of world leaders and diplomats.
U.N. Women - the U.N. arm dedicated to gender equality - has programmes in 107 countries through which it seeks to give women who are disenfranchised the same opportunities as men.
Recent research by consultancy McKinsey estimates that if women's economic participation were to match men's, $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025.
The largest commitment to be announced came from Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and promised $10 million to help U.N. Women collect data on gender.
The Gates Foundation, co-founded by Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, is one of the largest private charities in the world. The group has made its mark battling diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
Gates said she had become increasingly aware in recent years of the need for data on women - from their health to their income - to better fund her foundation's public health efforts in the developing world.
"When Bill and I think about running a business, we would have never thought about working at Microsoft without having data," she told company and foundation representatives.
The Gates Foundation's pledge deepens its involvement in collecting gender-focused data, coming a year after it promised $80 million to "close gender data gaps".
Others who announced pledges toward U.N. Women include fashion company Chanel's foundation and consumer goods giant Unilever Plc - each promising $1 million.
With Thursday's pledges, U.N. Women had raised more than $34 million, said Lakshmi Puri, the body's assistant secretary-general, in a Facebook broadcast of the event.
"This is a step towards bridging the chronic investment gap in gender equality," she said.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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