Cherie Blair, CBE KC
Leading King’s Counsel, wife of the former British Prime Minister and committed campaigner for women’s rights, Cherie set up the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in 2008 to support women to start, grow and sustain successful businesses in low and middle income countries so that they can contribute to their economies and have a stronger voice in their societies.
Cherie is actively involved in the Foundation, generously and tirelessly giving her time and resources to ensure its success. Travelling internationally to visit projects and donors and to advocate for women entrepreneurs globally, she is an ambassador for women entrepreneurs everywhere, encouraging other non-profits, corporations and governments to do more to support women business owners.
Cherie was awarded a CBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List for services to women’s issues and to charities in both the UK and overseas.
Chair of Trustees
Mathias is a social-sector expert and globally experienced executive who works with philanthropists, foundations and corporations. For two decades his work has addressed social and environmental challenges from both sides of the social/private sector interface. Mathias serves social enterprises, foundations and start-ups as consultant, advisor, board member and shareholder.
He holds a PhD in physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and has worked as project manager at McKinsey & Company, Global Head Philanthropy Services at UBS AG, COO of the Asia Philanthropy Circle Ltd in Singapore, Managing Director of the EDGE Certified Foundation, CEO of Dialoghaus Hamburg gGmbH and Dialogue Social Enterprise GmbH and today leads the partnership and philanthropy team Switzerland of the ETH Zurich Foundation, where he is also a member of the management board.
Rosanne’s passion is tackling the world’s biggest environmental and social challenges by harnessing the power of business to provide lasting solutions.
She currently heads up a tech start up that empowers SMEs to reach their potential online, having previously led Virgin Unite, the entrepreneurial foundation of the Branson Family and Virgin brand, incubating new initiatives such as Carbon War Room, Ocean Unite and the B Team.
Prior to Virgin Rosanne founded CottonConnect, a pioneering business creating more sustainable cotton supply chains. Rosanne started her career at Shell, building her business acumen in marketing and sales roles in Africa and Europe before joining the Shell Foundation, where she brought development ventures to scale.
Tanya is a communications expert who has worked at the highest levels of the public, private and NGO sectors supporting them across communications disciplines including public and corporate affairs, reputation management, and behaviour change campaigning. She was the architect of the award-winning This Girl Can campaign which in its first years inspired 2.8 million women and girls to get active.
The daughter of South African political activists who played a key role in the fight against Apartheid, she has from an early age been committed to tackling social injustice. Tanya is a graduate of the London School of Economics and has an MA from the University of London. A South African by birth and a Londoner in her soul, she has lived and worked in Paris, Pakistan and Hong Kong.
Tanya also sits on the board of the Thompson Foundation which supports journalists and journalistic integrity across the world; the London Philharmonic Orchestra; and London Sport which is working to make London the most active city in the world.
Sarah is a Trustee of the First Light Festival in Lowestoft. She has previously been a Trustee and Chair of the Audit Committee of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a Trustee of the Spitalfields Festival and a Feoffee of Chethams Hospital and Library.
Sarah was Chief Executive of Trinity College London from 2008-2021. Prior to joining Trinity College London, she gained wide international executive and leadership experience in educational, arts and content organisations in both not-for-profit and commercial companies.
With over 25 years of experience in international organisations from the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, United States Agency for International Development to the International Labour Organisation, Sarah has extensive experience as an advocate for women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.
She is currently an independent consultant specialising in private sector development, gender and women’s empowerment. Sarah is also the Founder and Director of the Kitakule Foundation, a charity promoting equal access to education. She has been a board member of several women’s networks, has provided leadership to private sector associations and, was the elected Chairperson of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association for three years. She has mentored young professionals and was recognized as a nominee for the British Council Woman Professional of the Year Award.
Having been a lawyer for an international law firm for a number of years, Chris then moved in the not-for-profit sector. He has worked within it for five years, for a human rights organisation based in sub-Saharan Africa and then global humanitarian agencies Save the Children and Merlin.
Most recently, following being asked to start up a new charity, Chris is the Director of Global Operations at the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.
He is passionate about equipping people in developing or vulnerable countries to survive and thrive and, in particular, the role played by women.
Chris is also a trustee of the Royal Pinner Educational Trust.
Olga is a global innovation and finance expert, specializing in financial education, sustainability, and gender-smart investing. She has been broadly recognized for her transformational achievements to change the financial services industry for women and gender equality with features in the global press such as Sky News, BBC News, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Newsweek and won numerous awards including FemBizSwiss 2021 Communication, ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year 2019’ by CityWealth Magazine, a place on the Senior Leaders in Fintech Powerlist by Innovate Finance UK and the Top 100 Women in Switzerland list by Women in Business.
Following her career at UBS she has co-founded her own start-up – SmartPurse – a fintech-ed-tech venture revolutionizing financial education. With her blogs and money columns Olga reaches over 550,000 readers per year in Switzerland. Olga has two children and lives in Zürich and London.
With more than 15 years working in international development, Christine has substantial global experience in women’s economic empowerment, private-sector development, financial inclusion, value chain development, entrepreneurship, cross-sector partnerships, and social enterprise.
Christine is a Director in BSR’s (Business for Social Responsibility) Women’s Empowerment practice and leads HERproject – a collaborative initiative bringing together global brands, their suppliers, and local NGOs to empower low-income women workers in global supply chains.
Prior to BSR, Christine was the global director of women’s economic empowerment at CARE International, leading the organization’s global work to support 30 million women. Christine also previously worked on building leadership training programs for sustainable development at Lead International and for the United Nations Development Programme in Nicaragua.
Dhivya O’Connor joined the Foundation as CEO in November 2023. She is an accomplished leader, with over 23 years’ experience across the non-profit and for-profit sectors. Growing up in India, Dhivya witnessed stark inequalities, particularly for women and girls, which has deeply influenced her commitment to championing equality and addressing social injustice.
Dhivya is currently Interim CEO at The Girls’ Network. She previously led as CEO, United World Schools, Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Children with Cancer UK. A talented fundraiser, Dhivya also brings strategy and business development expertise from her early career in the private sector, working at GE Capital, Lloyds Bank and OctopusTravel (now part of Expedia).
Dhivya is a Trustee of Book Aid International, a Steering Committee Member of Groundbreakers, and Governor of a state primary school. Dhivya is also the host and creative force behind the chart-topping The Charity CEO Podcast (www.thecharityceo.com).
Corporate Services Team
Bella joined the team in January 2021, after working for over 20 years in senior finance positions in the not-for-profit sector. She has an MSc in Fiscal Studies from the University of Bath and is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). She is extremely passionate about providing the tools to empower and educate women, both professionally and personally, and has established a voluntary organisation to support girls in rural Ethiopia to gain a university education.
Yvette joined the Foundation in 2023 as our Business Support Officer. She has over 30 years of professional experience in administrative roles within various operational programmes in the NHS, WaterAid, and ACORD. She has also worked in the public sector and the civil service. She is very passionate about Equality and Inclusion and Mental Health issues within our social climate.
Ashleigh joined us in January 2019. Originally from New Zealand, she worked as an Executive Assistant for a Member of Parliament. Since moving to Britain she’s worked in the charity sector in both Edinburgh and London. Ashleigh is passionate about people and culture. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology from University of Victoria Wellington and undertook further studies in Educational Psychology.
External Affairs Team
Sian Hawkins joined the Foundation in April 2019. She has 15 years of experience working on women’s rights, from frontline support roles with survivors of domestic abuse and sex workers to high level policy and advocacy roles. She joins us from Women’s Aid in England as Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns. Sian has a BSc in Psychology and a Masters in Human Rights.
Lulu started at the Foundation in Autumn 2019. She is a feminist and disability rights activist, and cares deeply about social justice. She holds a wealth of expertise in marketing, communications, fundraising, project management, audience development, events and curating. A Fine Art graduate, prior to joining us Lulu worked in the arts sector for over 10 years with a focus on social change and community projects, as well as founding and running her own non-profit art and writing platform.
Kristin joined the foundation in 2022. She is passionate about women’s empowerment and has a background working in communications and public relations roles for organisations with that focus. Her main area of interest has been sexual and reproductive health and rights. She also previously worked on a women’s entrepreneurship programme in Zambia, before moving to London in 2019.
Tania started at the foundation in 2022. She is a gender equality activist who’s passionate about empowerment, and has experience in community outreach, advocacy, and fundraising. Previously, she has worked for various local organizations supporting refugees, survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault, and women’s rights. She has additionally worked with UN Women to increase access to education for girls in the Middle East and North Africa. Tania has BA in Political Science and a Master’s in Education, Gender, and International Development.
Nora started at the Foundation in Autumn 2020. She has experience developing partnerships with the Trusts and Foundations, individual, and corporate fundraising sectors. Nora is passionate about women’s rights and social justice. She completed her BA in International Relations at the University of Exeter and has a Master’s degree in Understanding and Securing Human Rights at the School of Advanced Study (University of London) where she focused on gendercide, forced migration, and international development.
Tom joined the Foundation in 2023. He has experience in major donor fundraising and corporate partnerships. Tom is passionate about social justice having previously worked at the UK’s largest homelessness charity. He has a BSc in Geography and Master’s degree in International Financial and Political Relations both from Loughborough University, where he focussed his research on the depiction of British Muslims in the UK media.
Mary joined the Foundation in 2023. She’s had an extensive career in fundraising and relationship management, having been a major donor manager for University of Sussex for more than 10 years. Mary has devised donor cultivation programmes in the UK and USA and managed high profile campaigns. More recently, Mary has consulted for both the Women’s Equality Party and UN Women UK which has fuelled her passion for empowering women and building an equal society.
Hayley joined us in 2019. Formerly the Head of Development at YouthNet, she has extensive experience working with Trusts and Foundations. Before this, Hayley was a Cabinet Member for Crime Prevention and Public Safety at Brent Council. She has a BSc in Psychology from University of Manchester and a Post Grad in Local Government from Birkbeck College, University of London.
Adaora is a passionate advocate of equal opportunities for all with several years of experience in project management and administration. She joined the foundation in 2022 following her role as a Sustainability Researcher with the University of Sussex, where she also obtained a master’s degree in Sustainable Development.
In 2015, her interest in empowering women and girls led her to set up an NGO in Nigeria.
Leanne joined us in April 2022. Previously, she was Director of Programmes at Tzedek, a small international development NGO working in Ghana and India with women, youth and civil society groups living in extreme poverty. Her journey into working in gender equality started when she spent six months in northern Ghana, leading British and Ghanaian young people working to promote girls’ education. On her return, she pursued an MA in Education, Gender and International Development from UCL during which she focused on how formal and informal education can be used to effect behavioural change around harmful gender norms and stereotypes.
Nyasha joined the foundation in 2022. Zimbabwe born & UK educated, she has several years experience in programmatic work in the UK and international CSOs & NGOs. Her passion for International Development and the intersection of Female Economic Empowerment within the developing world has speared her on continuously, allowing her to work and travel internationally extensively giving her a breath of multicultural exposure.
Saskia joined the Foundation in 2022 after working as a freelance writer as well as in management roles for social initiative businesses which aimed to provide work experience and social support to ex-offenders and vulnerable youth. Activism has always been at the forefront of what Saskia does, from her time in Women’s Studies at The University of Concordia in Montreal, to organising movements in support of inclusive sex education and indigenous rights in Canada.
Dermot has a Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Governance from the University of Amsterdam. His thesis focused on cultural performances in contested spaces. He previously worked for a peace and reconciliation centre in Northern Ireland before management positions in the civil service and hospitality. While in Amsterdam he volunteered with Leger des Heils to help refugees integrate into Dutch society.
Efe joined us in 2019. Previously with Ambition Institute as a Programme Manager, she led on recruitment and delivery of their Governance Leadership Programme in partnership with the Confederation of School Trusts. Before that Efe worked for causes supporting trafficked women and human rights activists. She is passionate about women’s empowerment as well as youth and community development work.
Cristina joined the Foundation in September 2023. She brings a wealth of experience from her prior roles at the International Labour Organization’s Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme and the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative, where she worked towards advancing opportunities for women in the global economy. Cristina has a background in journalism and holds an MBA specialising in International Trade and Development.
Emily joined us in 2019. Formerly the Head of Women and Markets at CARE International UK, she is experienced in leading global teams in markets, value chains and dignified work. She’s also done retail management, marketing and programme management in Indonesia, Myanmar and India. Emily worked as a VSO small business advisor in Tanzania and holds a MSC in Responsible Business Practice from Bath University.
Rachel joined at the Foundation in March 2023 with nearly two decades of experience in the third sector and consultancy. Her expertise is in research, evaluation and programme management, primarily in programming and policy to dismantle barriers to access in education and employment in marginalised communities. Most recently, Rachel managed evaluation and programme oversight for a US-based foundation conducting intensive community development and leadership education for women and girls in rural Kenya. She holds a Master of Philosophy in Modern European History from the University of Cambridge and dual B.A.s in History and French from Arizona State University.
Angela joined the foundation in June 2022, bringing extensive experience in mentoring and coaching in diverse communities in the UK and in Latin America. She holds an MSc in Globalisation and Latin American Development from the School of Advanced Study. Angela is especially passionate about women’s empowerment, and in her free time ran a social enterprise working with small-scale cooperatives in low and middle income countries around the world.
Elizabeth joined us in March 2019. Elizabeth previously worked at Coffey International Development where she oversaw the delivery of governance and justice reform projects in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe for donors such as DFID and the EU. Elizabeth holds an MA (Hons) in International Relations and Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews and an MSc in Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics.
Franziska Wilk joined in May 2022. She is an expert in programme management in the NGO sector and has held various positions with a number of UK and international NGOs over the last decade. She joined us from Prince’s Trust International, a leading global youth organisation where she was managing multi-stakeholder projects focusing on entrepreneurship, education and employability across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Franziska is passionate about tackling challenges that women face and adopts a gender-lens across her work. She also believes that EdTech has huge potential in todays ever more digital environment, as a supplementary tool alongside quality face-to-face support. She holds an LLM in Law and also an MSc in NGO Development Management.