We would like to introduce you to one of our programme partners, Qualcomm. Their Wireless Reach™ programme broadens their impact by bringing advanced wireless technologies to underserved communities around the world, enriching people’s lives while creating new markets for their business. Wireless Reach™ invests in programmes that leverage Qualcomm’s leading-edge technologies to improve lives, transform communities, and protect the planet. Currently, there are 119 Wireless Reach™ programmes that have reached more than 17 million people in 47 countries.
Qualcomm has been collaborating with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women since 2012. For our first collaboration, we teamed up to provide online mentoring support as part of the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme in Malaysia. That programme’s success laid the foundation for our current work in Vietnam on the DevelopHer programme.
Through the DevelopHer programme, women entrepreneurs across Vietnam leverage Qualcomm-enabled mobile technologies to overcome business challenges and take their enterprises to the next level. The project has two components. These include the HerVenture mobile application and the online Mentoring Women in Business Programme, which engages women entrepreneurs across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.
Of the joint initiative, Angela Baker, Director of Corporate Responsibility, says, “DevelopHer combines mobile and online technologies to fill a need for flexible support of women entrepreneurs at the start-up and growth stages of their businesses. It provides an exciting and engaging way for women entrepreneurs to unlock their potential.”
We sat down with Angela to talk more about Qualcomm’s collaboration with the Foundation, and to hear about her experiences meeting the women that we collectively support.
What made Qualcomm decide to support the work of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women?
“Qualcomm’s passion has always been to expand access through our technologies. The Foundation’s work creates opportunities for mobile and aligns with the goals of our Qualcomm Wireless Reach Initiative. The goal of Wireless Reach is to create sustainable, advanced wireless projects that demonstrate innovative uses of Qualcomm technology for social good and help drive human and economic progress in underserved areas. A key focus area of Wireless Reach is empowering women, specifically by bringing the economic benefits of wireless connectivity to entrepreneurs around the world. The ultimate goal of the Foundation’s work is to enhance women’s skills and knowledge in the areas of business and technology in order to empower them to improve their incomes, achieve gender and economic equality with men, and obtain a better quality of life.”
Why is women’s economic empowerment important to Qualcomm?
“At Qualcomm, we believe that companies play a central role in ensuring women have access to business opportunities and helping achieve gender equality. The DevelopHer programme is innovative on several fronts and is representative of how Qualcomm technologies are breaking down geographic, socio-economic, educational, and cultural barriers that have historically obstructed progress in developing countries. The programme combines mobile and online technologies to fill a need in Vietnam for flexible support of women entrepreneurs at the start-up and growth stages of their business. It provides a way for women entrepreneurs to overcome challenges affecting their ability to develop, sustain, and grow their businesses and economically empower themselves. It takes a user-centric approach in that it allows women entrepreneurs to engage in learning when and where it is convenient for them. And, it combines a global focus and reach with a regional learning and networking component through online tools and webinars as well as access to markets and financial services that help increase women entrepreneurs’ ability to scale their businesses.
Women’s economic empowerment is one of the most significant challenges of our time. It’s also one of the most effective ways to promote individual-level and community prosperity.”
What did you learn from the women entrepreneurs you met in Malaysia?
“There is a lot of research showing that when women earn an income and have the agency to decide where, when and how to use those resources, they overwhelmingly invest in education and other things to improve the well-being of themselves, their children, their families, and their communities.
However, no matter how ground-breaking or statistically significant the academic papers and research findings may be about the importance of women’s economic empowerment, they simply do not convey the strength, tenacity, creativity, resourcefulness, grit, determination, and bravery of the women participating in this programme, many of whom I have had the privilege of meeting.
For example, Putri was inspired to start her business because she struggled to find plus-sized clothes to suit her taste. Putri is the owner of This and That Enterprise, a homebased tailoring company which makes custom clothes for curvy women. After getting divorced and struggling to find a job to support her children, she took a sewing course at the Foundation’s local partner in Malaysia, the Foundation for Women’s Educational and Vocational Training (YPVWM) and made orders for friends and family. Putri and her mentor, Philippe explored ways Putri could sell her designs through Facebook and Instagram and increase her visibility online. Putri used the tablet to access information relevant to her line of business, watch training videos and promote her designs online. During her time in the programme, her business went from having fewer than five clients to having over 30, many of whom are regular customers. As a result, Putri was able to build a regular income, and her revenue increased by 86%. When I met Putri, she was full of confidence and light and I found her story very inspiring.”
What are your aspirations for the women?
“What’s wonderful to me about this project is that it is about the women’s aspirations. I am invested in this work because I know our tech is helping on a global scale. The women in this programme work hard to make their dreams a reality. I feel privileged to be in a position where I can run programmes that leverage our company’s time, resources, and expertise so these women can be successful.”
Why would you encourage other funders to visit the work they support?
“It’s important to visit the work you support in order to ensure that resources are being used as agreed and performance metrics are being met. Beyond that, there is enormous value to be gained from visiting programmes and meeting and hearing from beneficiaries. If your organization is funding a programme to make a positive impact on people’s lives, then go and talk to those people directly. It’s important to see that impact first-hand, listen to their needs, and see how it is actually going on the ground. Overall, this will ensure your programme is more successful and is designed with the end beneficiary in mind.”