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Cherie Blair is empowering women entrepreneurs.

“I come from a background of strong women,” says Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair. “My mother and my grandmother in Liverpool, both of whom, for various reasons, had to leave school with 14, were absolutely determined that my sister and I would have the opportunities that they didn’t have. I’m very conscious that too many women across the world are more unlucky than lucky.”

Cherie Blair believes that giving women the opportunity to work towards financial independence is the key. Financial independence is what allows people to make good decisions, to not be vulnerable to whatever life throws at them. It’s the door to leaving an abusive relationship, and it’s the door to self fulfillment.

The problem, she says, is that women are looked upon as burdens rather than contributors. This view is contrary to World Bank research, she says, which shows that when investing in women, there is a 90 percent rate of those women investing in their families and communities, whereas boys have a 30-40 percent return. And yet girls are rarely given the chance.

“We need to tackle this idea that girls aren’t worth as much as boys,” says Blair, “that a woman is not equal to man.”

Funded by industry as well as wealthy and not wealthy individuals, her Cherie Blair Foundation For Women seeks out good local partners already on the ground to help bring business education to women.

In Palestine, for example, Blair describes on the one hand refugee camps with mothers who need work but there are no jobs available, and on the other hand women leaving university with skills they can’t use because there are no jobs available. They cannot go to the Gulf States seeking employment like men can.

Then someone had an idea: garbage disposal. With help from Tomorrow’s Youth, the university grads received business training, started their waste disposal business and hired women from the refugee camps to work. This turned out to be not only a win-win situation, but the city and environment benefited as well.

“Our mission” says Blair’s website, “is to provide women with the skills, technology, networks and access to capital that they need to become successful small and growing business owners, so that they can contribute to their economies and have a stronger voice in their societies.”

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