Cherie Blair, The Huffington Post, 26 April 2013
This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.
This week saw the start of the RaiseForWomen Challenge, an initiative to help nonprofits that focus on women, gain funds and greater recognition. By raising awareness of 80 different women's organizations across the country, the Challenge will help to highlight the many different ways in which we can invest in women.
As a lifelong advocate of women's empowerment, I am well aware of the value of investing in women. I learned this first as a child, when I saw my mother struggle to bring up my sister and I after my father deserted us. Much later, when my husband, Tony Blair, was prime minister, I was lucky to be able to meet and talk with all kinds of women around the world, who face huge challenges on a daily basis. Despite their struggles these women were incredibly hard-working and determined to make a better life for themselves -- very much like my mother, in fact -- but often they lacked the right kind of support.
Inspired by this spirit I decided to set up a Foundation for Women to provide support, such as confidence building and access to finance, for women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. There are so many barriers, cultural and otherwise, that prevent women from playing a full role in society. But if a woman can earn her own money by setting up and expanding her own business, she can begin fully to take charge of her life, and to take decisions for herself and her family. Financial independence brings real autonomy, and the power to say no. That's the great prize for women.
The benefit doesn't end there -- research has demonstrated that supporting women entrepreneurs has a great knock-on effect. Unlike men, women tend to invest 90 percent of their income back into their families and communities. This means that women are not only bringing an additional income into their homes and putting food on the table, but they also have the money to send their children to school, investing in their futures too. Goldman Sachs has found that "women are now redefining markets and creating growth by focusing their spending power on ... food, health care, education clothing, consumer durables and financial services." As women further invest in their communities, they are further developing their economies and wider society as well. As Christine Lagarde so accurately stated at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, "When women do better, economies do better." The evidence is clear: investing in women isn't just good ethics, it's sound economics!
At the Foundation, we know how important the funds and donations are that we receive. We have grown tremendously over the years and now reach 60,000 women in 50 countries, a feat only made possible through the generous support of corporations, trusts, foundations and individuals who share our interest and passion in investing in women. Together we have enabled these women to become more financially empowered as individuals and thus -- since money brings status -- within their own communities too. There are many organizations eager to make a difference and many different ways to help women everywhere take their full place in society. For the RaiseForWomen Challenge I am making a call to action -- take the time to contribute to a cause that results in positive change not just for women, but for their children and communities as well. Invest in women and everyone benefits.