With the students at the Western Galilee College
Meeting one of the Druze mothers
With the Founders of the Business Women's Forum
The goal of Chere's Foundation is to encourage and support women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities.
Cherie has recently returned from a brief trip to the Middle East where she has been publically launching the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and some of the projects the organisation has been supporting.
The goal of the Foundation is to strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities, so they can grow their businesses and become greater contributors to their economies.
The first stage of the trip was a visit to the Western Galilee College in Israel. In partnership with the Foundation, the College is launching a pioneering programme through which 22 female Jewish and Arab students will study for a multi-disciplinary qualification in Economics and Management.
The ultimate aim of the programme is to provide women who have already exhibited an entrepreneurial flair with the skills and confidence they will need to succeed in an employment market which is heavily dominated by men.
Cherie met with this year's intake of students and discussed their feelings about the course, their hopes and aspirations and the obstacles they face during their career journey.
After the opening of the ceremony Mrs Blair gave a short speech alongside members of the WGC team.
The remarks focused on the role that women have to play in their economies and the benefits that they will inevitably generate for those societies. Research indicates that when a women is the family's main breadwinner she will reinvent 90% of her income into her immediate family. For men the figure is substantially lower. other interesting statistics highlighted by Mrs Blair include the fact that, globally, only 16% of credit and finance is extended to women entrepreneurs. It is exactly this kind of gender imbalance, which presents a range of unique obstacles to women entering the labour market which the unique programme at the Western Galilee College seeks to address.
On a more personal note Cherie spoke about how her own life had been greatly influenced by the opportunities she was afforded thanks to her education.
After the speech and as a conclusion to the morning's event the 22 students were given brand new laptop computers which were donated to the programme by the IDB fund for the community. These tools will allow the students to participate in the courses from the remote locations many of them call home.
Many of the parents, who came from a diverse cross section of Arabic and Jewish and Druze communities, attended the launch, giving a powerful indication of the capacity of such a programme to bring disparate communities together.
The following morning Cherie was in Ramallah in Palestine to attend the launch of another inspiring programme; one of the largest the Foundation will be supporting.
The Palestinian Business Women's Forum (BWF), is developing, with support from the Foundation a Business Development Centre which will serve as a one stop shop were women will be able to develop ideas into functioning business' and existing operations into larger enterprises.
A facility like this is of great importance because research indicates that among women who do set out to establish their own business, making the transition from micro to mid size enterprise is the most challenging step. This lack of business growth results in what has been called the 'missing middle' in developing economies, which is a real hindrance to economic growth.
Cherie visited the Centre itself which has been fully equipped to provide state of the art environment in which women can develop their ideas and receive ongoing support as they meet the challenges which are part and parcel of running an expanding business.
The facility will help women entrepreneurs in the area succeed by focusing on four key areas of operation: incubation, training, counselling and consulting and information provision.
The Business Woman's Forum is unique because it provides a long term source of support for entrepreneurial women, giving them advice from the early stages of a nascent business concept to the final stages of its realisation. This kind of support is especially important to women in a society which does not always look favourably on women who choose to pursue their own careers outside of the home.
At the event, which was also attended by the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Founder of the BWF Amal Daraghmeh Masri, Mrs Blair spoken at length about why her Foundation was so keen to support the project, and what an exciting prospect the partnership with BWF is.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women works with local partners in all its projects to maximise its impact and benefit from local knowledge, and the BWF is a perfect example of a partnership which can maximise the positive for both parties.
Mrs Blair had this to say on the potential of the BWF system to be a key project in the development of the work of CBFW right across the Middle East:
"Our ambition is for it to help women not just in this community but across a much wider area of the West Bank and hopefully in the not too distant future in Gaza. We also hope to use this centre as a model for other business development support projects across the Middle East. So we want as many women as possible to make use of its facilities and services. "
If you would like to learn more about the work of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Click here