Ambition for impact
Six months ago, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women announced our ambition to directly support 100,000 more women in low and middle income countries over the next three years, empowering them to start and grow successful businesses. Now, we’re delighted to share our first major progress update with you:
We’ve reached almost 12,000 women in the Campaign’s first six months and we’re firmly on track to reach another 24,000 by the end of the year.
By supporting women entrepreneurs, our 100,000 Women Campaign aims to help close the gender gap in entrepreneurship and bring prosperity, security and equality not just to these women, but also to their families, communities, economies and the world.
The Campaign was launched at Davos, alongside the World Economic Forum, with a special video message of support from our friend Hillary Clinton:
We brought women entrepreneurs’ voices to the world’s stage with a moving speech from Ilgin Ozdemir Yazgan, founder of maternity and nursing business attire brand Accouchée and graduate of our Mentoring programme.
Our launch set us on track to reach tens of thousands of women in the Campaign’s first year alone, through our Entrepreneurships programmes—mobile learning app HerVenture, enterprise development programme Road to Growth, and face-to-face skills training ‘one stop shop’ project—delivered in six countries, plus our online, cross-border Mentoring Women in Business programme, which supports women all over the world.
We envisaged fantastic results and enormous impact, however one thing nobody could foresee was a global pandemic, and resulting economic crisis.
A rapid response
COVID-19 has had a massive impact for the women entrepreneurs we support. A survey we put out to women participating in our programmes in April found that 93% of respondents had already been negatively impacted by the pandemic at that time, with 47% temporarily or permanently ceasing operations.
This enormous economic crisis saw a greater need for our support than ever before. We continued to deliver all of our programmes, and fortunately our experience with technology and the online nature of many of our services helped us adapt quickly to meet changing and increasing needs with relevant resources.
Outside of our tech-led delivery, vulnerable participants in our ‘one stop shop’ project, Mujeres AVE, faced a particularly profound threat. We went beyond our usual remit and worked hard to mitigate this, by providing phone credit and distributing food parcels to those most in need.
Also prioritising a rapid, online response, we launched several new programmes to give women entrepreneurs additional, immediate support in their time of need:
- In collaboration with the School of Marketing, we offered a free digital marketing skills programme to all women in our programmes past and present, which has so far reached 600 women
- With Cambridge Wireless, Synergy Solutions and King’s College London, we developed a new, free Business Resilience Training programme in just six weeks. It’s supported over 1,000 women already
- Just last month, we released Business Bootcamp, a series of 24 pre-recorded training webinars available for free on our website, developed with Accenture, in just a few weeks is has reached more than 250 users
In order to reach as many women entrepreneurs as possible and to do whatever we can to support global COVID-19 recovery, we also made both our Business Resilience Training and Business Bootcamp open-access, so that anyone can access them for free, without being part of our existing programmes—here’s hoping they can play a vital role for many more women business owners.
Thriving in the face of adversity
Six months in, our 100,000 Women campaign has so far taken a slightly different shape than we envisaged back in January, but we’re nonetheless delighted to have achieved so much already this year:
- Our HerVenture app was launched in Kenya in May, and has been downloaded by over 1,000 women in the country since then
- It’s also reached more than 3,500 women in Nigeria and over 4,000 women in Vietnam
- Our Road to Growth and Mujeres AVE projects in Mexico have supported over 200 women
- Almost 1,000 women have participated in our Mentoring Women in Business programme, each matched with a business expert as a mentor
- Our brand new online programmes, launched in response to COVID-19 have supported more than 1,500 women in total
- We’ve been running a series of high-profile webinars for global audiences, leading the discussion on how companies, institutions and governments can support women entrepreneurs through the pandemic
This means that over the first six months of the 100,000 Woman Campaign, we’ve directly supported almost 12,000 women. We’re firmly on track to reach another 24,000 by the end of the year, with new activities launching in Indonesia and expanding elsewhere.
And we’re showing no signs of slowing down: our new and existing partnerships continue to flourish, with Paypal more than doubling its investment in our Mentoring programme, and our new partner DHL enabling us to expand delivery of our mobile app, HerVenture, to Kenya, with the addition of a new learning track on e-commerce. We have many more exciting, bespoke partnerships in the pipeline, allowing us to scale and build our work and make serious headway towards our ambitious Campaign target, but we’re also in need of new partners, too, if we’re to reach our goal!
Despite the hostile environment for business, in the past six months, the women entrepreneurs we support have developed, increased their opportunities and done amazing things. Our May 2019 cohort of mentees graduated in style, with 98% telling us that they developed skills in strategy and 85% developing skills in management. Many women who have benefited from our programmes have put their training into practice, demonstrating enormous resilience and innovation to support themselves and others through the pandemic as they have adapted their businesses to deliver new services, new products or provide their existing services in new ways.
We place immense importance on bringing the voices of the women we support to a global platform, and now, you can hear from them directly on COVID-19’s impacts, the needs, the solutions, and what the Foundation means to them:
Finally, our Global Campaign Board of visionary philanthropists has also been gearing up to help us reach our target of £10 million over the next three years. We are delighted to deepen our presence in North America thanks to the support of Jacqueline Finkelstein-LeBow, who joined the campaign board as a new regional Chair, alongside Beatriz Gasca Acevedo and Angela Jilina, just last month. We’re thrilled to welcome all our new members.
Looking to the future
When we look to the future, and to rebuilding the global economy, it’s absolutely vital that we recognise that investing in women, and in creating a global business ecosystem that is truly gender equal is the greatest opportunity of our time.
— Cherie Blair CBE QC
We’re incredibly proud to be part of a global drive to build back better as we respond to COVID-19’s impacts on women who own small businesses around the globe, and to see the contribution our Campaign makes to global economic recovery, equality, security and prosperity. All of this is only made possible by our visionary partners, donors and supporters. Thank you so much to those of you already with us on the journey.
We have had a good start to our campaign–especially given the challenging environment–but we’ll need your help to reach 100,000 more women entrepreneurs, their families and their communities by 2022. Through a combination of bespoke corporate and institutional partnerships and generous donations from those who share our vision of a world where women and men enjoy equal access to entrepreneurship we are confident we can get there transforming lives with the freedom of financial independence possible through economic empowerment.
If you’re interested in contributing to this incredible impact, find out how you or your company can get involved in our 100,000 Women Campaign, or make a transformational donation today!