For ten years, lawyer Cherie Blair was the First Lady of the United Kingdom. A year after those duties ended, inspired by the budding women entrepreneurs she’d met around the world, she founded a charity to support women in developing and emerging economies establish and grow sustainable businesses.

AUW Jan 2011-3 cropped“These women faced a huge number of legal and cultural barriers to developing their business ideas. Yet, despite these hurdles, they refused to take no for an answer. With the right support and the right tools, I knew they could go on to achieve amazing things – not just for themselves, but for their families and communities too.”
Cherie Blair

Since 2008, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has embarked on an ambitious path that has impacted more than 140,000 women across 100 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. The Foundation supports women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies to access the skills, technology, networks and financial services they need to become successful small and growing business owners, through the charity’s Enterprise Development, Mentoring Women in Business and Mobile Technology programs.

Technology for Change

Technology is the cornerstone of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s work – whether it’s using the Internet to connect a woman with a life-changing mentor on the other side of the world, delivering training on financial literacy via a digital platform, or creating mobile apps to help women manage their sales at the touch of a button.

The Foundation was an early pioneer in the mobile technology space when it partnered with the GSMA Development Fund in 2010 to research and produce the ground-breaking report Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity. The findings showed a significant gender gap at the time, where 300 million women in developing countries did not have access to mobile technology. The conclusions of this research showed that closing this gap would not only benefit women and their families to break the cycle of poverty, but that it also represented a $13 billion opportunity for mobile operators.

Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Nigeria 2014

“We believe that technology is a great enabler for women. It opens up opportunities and breaks down barriers on a scale like never before. However, whilst technology is a definite game-changer, it is not a silver bullet. There are still huge gender gaps in access to and use of technology – meaning that the poorest women are being excluded from the benefits of technological change.”
Cherie Blair

Using Mobile for Business Women

In addition to other technologies that the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women uses to deliver programs, they understand that mobile offers tremendous opportunities for women in developing and emerging economies.
In August 2012, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women launched an award-winning mobile service in Nigeria with the ExxonMobil Foundation, Nokia and MTN Nigeria. The service, called Business Women, consisted of a series of messages containing tips and training on business skills, delivered via SMS to mobile phones. The messages were specifically tailored for women entrepreneurs in Nigeria and reached over 70,000 women. The service was also rolled out in Indonesia and Tanzania. In total, the Foundation’s Business Women learning tool reached over 100,000 women.

Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Nigeria 2014The success of the Business Women program sparked a new initiative in Mexico. Partnering with the Angélica Fuentes Foundation, the Foundation is developing HerVenture, a new mobile learning tool, designed to deliver bite-sized business training to 1,000 women entrepreneurs. This enhanced version of the Business Women Mobile Service project includes an app designed for smartphone users that offers business and financial literacy training through a series of short videos and a social networking functionality.

The design of the HerVenture application is informed by the Foundation’s comprehensive study exploring the specific needs of women entrepreneurs in Mexico. The research found that the main obstacles women experience are linked to formalizing their enterprises, accessing capital and information, and facing gender discrimination.

HerVenture is planned for roll out in 2018 in Mexico. After a needs assessment in Southeast Asia, the program will also be deployed in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Welcoming Cherie Blair to The Next 3B

With almost a decade experience with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and a vast network of relationships in government, business, and NGOs, The Next 3B is thrilled to welcome Cherie Blair to our Board.

Cherie Blair“The truth is that we cannot even begin to tackle the world’s most intractable problems – whether it be climate change, poverty or gender inequality – without the support and leadership of the private sector. Business leaders are in a unique position to drive social change – they can leverage the capital, technology and infrastructure needed to improve people’s lives on a huge scale.”
Cherie Blair

Our goal of realizing the global market and development potential of the next 3 billion people joining the Internet and our vision to empower 100 million women to break the cycle of poverty with access to a connected world aligns well with the mission of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

This shared interest in addressing the gender gap in access to technology and using smartphones to create new social and economic opportunities for women will generate positive and lasting results.

We are excited to work together to advance our work and look forward to joining forces on the ground.