Women business owners around the world are adjusting to the new reality: shuttering their doors due to stay-at-home orders and pivoting their offerings to respond to COVID-19.
At the Foundation, we remain completely committed to supporting these women during this incredibly difficult time and beyond. Their voices and experiences are so important to us, and we think it’s so important for others to hear them too. Below, you can hear from some of the women in our Mentoring and Entrepreneurship programmes on how the Coronavirus has impacted them and their businesses, and why our programmes, support, advocacy, and the networks we facilitate are now more vital than ever.
Some, such as Florence, highlight that they are actively trying to raise funds to cushion their businesses, which is made harder by a gendered lack of support and no networks to fall back on, pointing to there being so such thing as an “old boys’ club” for women:
There is insufficient social protection and support for SMEs being provided by the governments of many low and middle income countries. One woman, a CEO of a small business in Argentina, is facing enormous difficulties as she is currently stranded here in the UK following Argentina’s lockdown, pointing to difficulties from both the Argentina and UK governments for business owners in her situation:
“There is no official information about when Argentina will receive people from the UK again. The media in Argentina are providing false information or just being silent about the situation of the 10,000 Argentinians stranded abroad. The government says there is financial help but the truth is there isn’t.
While until now I have been to support myself here, and my house in Argentina, and keep my company in business, I don’t know for how long I’ll be able to keep it going. If my clients stop working, so will I. Specifically, I wish there was some sort of work permit for stranded people so that we can pay into the system here [in the UK], having been abandoned by my native country.”
This lack of gender-sensitive response to the pandemic by governments is made so clear by another of our programme participants, Naomi, who exemplifies the enormous potential and capacity to adapt that we see in women entrepreneurs every day, while articulating that, without gender-specific support from the top down, their vision and expertise – and their businesses – will be held back even more:
We know that women-owned businesses tend to also employ other women. The knock-on effect of these gendered impacts means even more women stand to struggle if their employers do.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted business negatively as we no longer pay our teachers as a result of low revenue,” Elizabeth Essiene is Director of school in Abuja, Nigeria, tells us, “The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has played a significant role in fighting the impact of COVID 19 on women entrepreneurs by providing online training free for them. If the Foundation is supported then many women entrepreneurs are also supported in this time period.”
The impacts are also compounded by other gendered factors, such as the “double burden” many women face of having to provide childcare and perform housework, as Hanan tells us:
What we’re so moved to hear, however, is the huge value these women see in our work – and we are absolutely committed to supporting them now more than ever. Namita, Co-Founder of a legal tech company in Mumbai, India told us, “Today, when stay at home and work from home seems to be the new normal, this pandemic does offer opportunity for a business like mine to make resolving from home the new normal. But the road ahead is still filled with more challenges, especially when it comes to being a woman entrepreneur and coming from a field which is otherwise male dominated.
But through this journey, Cherie Blair Foundation has been a great support and my mentor has been fantastic in helping me overcome battles before the lockdown, during the lockdown and I’m sure even after the lockdown.
It’s a great time to support Cherie Blair Foundation because supporting this also means supporting so many millions of us women out there who are trying to make a difference by doing the work that we do. Thank you!”
How can you support us?
With major implications for economies, businesses and entrepreneurs around the globe, the need for our work during this time increases. If you are able to help by making a donation today you’ll be enabling us to continue and expand the services women entrepreneurs need more than ever to support their families, communities and societies for years to come.