A young widow in her salon in the slums of Nairobi
Children of the Nairobi Slum
The menu for a new catering venture
"The concept of turning widows into entrepreneurs so they can both feed and educate their children has already been shown to work in Kenya," Cherie Blair
In April 2009 Cherie visited Kenya in her role as President of the Loomba Trust, a charity which focuses on the plight of widows and their children around the world and which she has supported for over 10 years now
Working in association with HRH Prince Charles' Youth Business International and the Kenya Youth Business Trust, the UK based Loomba Trust has a pilot project underway in Nairobi which has helped 28 young widows set up businesses.
Typical of the young Kenyan widows who have benefited to date from the initiative - known as the Loomba Trust Entrepreneurs Project - is 24-year-old mother of two Mary Wanjiru.
Mary is HIV positive - and so is one of her young children - and lives in Nairobi's overcrowded Korogocho slum where many of the shanties do not have running water or toilet facilities. The Loomba Trust backed project has bought her a sewing machine and textiles and pays for the rent on her new dressmaking business premises.
Within one month of being accepted for funding and training under the project, Mary had already reached the stage of being able to feed her family and buy the medicine necessary to keep herself and her sick child alive.
"The concept of turning widows into entrepreneurs so they can both feed and educate their children has already been shown to work in Kenya," says The Loomba Trust President Cherie Blair. "And Mary's case is a wonderful example of what can be done.
"And now that The Loomba Trust has officially arrived in Kenya, we intend to accelerate the entrepreneur project so that an ever increasing number of widows can follow the same escape route, so breaking the pernicious cycle of poverty once and for all."
Accredited by the United Nations as a UN NGO, The Loomba Trust's expansion to Kenya marks the ninth country in which the charity is currently seeking to ease the plight of widows on their children, often the most neglected and discriminated group in society.
The Trust has achieved a number of milestones in the last decade including -
• An ongoing programme of education for the children of impoverished widows across all 29 states of India
• A community based project for 1,500 orphans of HIV victims in South Africa in partnership with Virgin Unite (Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is the Trust's Patron-in-Chief)
• Empowerment programmes for widows in Uganda, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in association with The Prince's Youth Business International
• A major initiative with Oxfam and the Mayor of Kgali to help transform the lives of women who became widows in Rwanda as a result of genocide atrocities - a situation in which half of all married men lost their lives
Now the Loomba Trust is gearing itself up to achieve yet one more significant milestone in its crusade.
Having already set up International Widows Day, which takes place each year on June 23rd , the Trust is now actively campaigning for recognition of the day by the United Nations.
"This will then create an annual global focus and enable us to continue the momentum we have already achieved with the work of the Trust," says Raj Loomba.
For the latest news from the Looma Trust click here