Next step in cooperation with Cherie Blair Foundation

Following Mrs. Cherie Blair's visit last week (May 3), TYO has moved to the next step of cooperation, submitting a proposal for a joint project with the Cherie Blair Foundation in honor of Mother's Day yesterday. We suggested an eight-month pilot project that would train members of TYO's community (university volunteers and mothers of our participants) in life skills and design and marketing techniques. The outcome of the project would be to produce modern items reflecting traditional Palestinian embroidery skills for international sale. The larger goal would be to empower women as creative and productive community members, promoting financial security for themselves and their families. CBF staff are reviewing the proposal so that we can continue our discussion about working together in the coming days. In the meantime, we wanted to share the following information about CBF's work:

The mission of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is to provide the business skills and tools that will enable women across the world to realise their potential and achieve economic independence and success.

Women with economic security and independence have greater control over their own and their children's lives. Economic empowerment also gives women an influential voice in tackling injustice and discrimination in their own communities and in wider society.

"I am passionate about championing the cause of women. Whenever I can, I do so through my professional life as a human rights lawyer. And I also have used my higher personal profile over the last few years to take the message out to any audience which will listen to me. So I have spoken to audiences about the importance of women's rights here across Europe and North America but also in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. And wherever I have been, I always tried to grab the chance to meet with women to discuss the challenges they face in their own societies. I have always found these meetings fascinating and frequently inspiring. When you hear first-hand, for example, of the role women are playing in healing the scars of Rwanda, you leave humbled by their courage but also determined to do what you can to help. What has also struck me is the widespread desire of women in the developing world for advice and support from those of us who live in the more developed countries. They feel such help would not only have a real practical benefit - whether with advice on how best to tackle discrimination or, for example, expand their businesses - but would also play a major role in boosting morale in their fight to improve their lives. I have also been encouraged by the fact that, whenever I have mentioned this to women in countries like our own, there has been a real enthusiasm to provide this help and support. That is the reason I have set up the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Its aim is to help women across the world to realize their potential by promoting and supporting their economic independence and empowerment. In particular, it seeks to promote women's role and leadership in the global economy by enhancing the growth of women-owned small and medium enterprises in the developing world. Women with economic security and independence have much greater control over the lives of themselves and their children. It also, importantly, gives women a more influential voice in their communities and wider society to tackle injustice and discrimination." - Cherie Blair

About the Foundation Given the prevalence of informal self employment in many African and Asian economies, the expansion of successful micro enterprises into employment-generating small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is of great importance for economic growth. As women are the primary participants in micro finance programmes, the growth and further expansion of these women-owned enterprises is essential.

Evidence shows that the enterprise gender gap widens for established business owners (enterprises existing beyond 42 months), suggesting that women face specific barriers to establishing and expanding vibrant businesses. Although no single barrier explains the gap, studies find that women entrepreneurs are less likely to have knowledge and experience in financial management and are less likely to have and utilize business networks - two critical areas for successful business.

While micro finance programmes often provide a basic level of training in financing, women looking to grow their businesses will require a much higher skill level in finance and management. The market currently lacks training and networking programmes to support women in this expansion and micro finance providers have expressed great interest in linking their most successful clients (approximately 1-3%) to a more advanced business development programmes. The CBFW will do just that, partnering with micro finance organizations and business service providers to develop a new programme to support women entrepreneurs grow into and thrive at the SME level.