International Women's Day 2014: Cherie Blair - ‘Today is a chance to see how far we still have to go’

 

Cherie Blair QC is founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which helps women to build small and growing businesses in developing and emerging markets. She is a CBE, a leading lawyer and a committed campaigner for women’s rights.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a focal point that encourages us to review and remind ourselves how women aren’t treated equally and don’t have the same chances. In some countries, they have very poor chances indeed. Not that I think the focus should be purely overseas – it’s a chance to see both how far we’ve come in this country and also how far we still need to go.

Can a single day really help to empower women?

There are so many events and activities going on that for me, this is going to be International Women’s Week. And yes, all of these things genuinely can help.

Read more: A time to focus and inspire change
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Are you doing anything for IWD?

I’m attending several events ranging from a women’s festival to speaking at Accenture on the importance and role of mentors. With my Foundation, I’ll also be hosting a webinar to mark IWD. We have 1,000 women matched up with mentors and they’ll be able to ask me questions. The mentees are incredibly varied. For example, we have a woman in Zambia who owns a stone-crushing quarry right through to a psychologist in India who has designed a system to test children’s special education needs that is culturally specific.

 

What do you think about this year’s theme of Inspiring Change?

I’m naturally positive, so I think it’s great. I hope we’ll see a lot more highlighting of role models as a result – not just famous people, but ordinary people doing extraordinary things who are often already local heroes.

In your career, have you faced difficulties as a woman?

Going into court in my first year of pupillage as a trainee barrister, I barely saw a woman appear in court. ‘What does a woman barrister look and sound like?’ were the sorts of questions I had to find out for myself.

What messages do you want girls and women to take away from IWD?

That you can help to change the perception of women, whether that’s by becoming a mentor or through the purchasing decisions you make in a company or by what you achieve as a girl or woman.

Have any women particularly inspired you in the past year?

A fantastic woman called Comfort, whom I met in Ghana. She has juggled her busy family life with building the shea butter production company Ele Agbe from nothing. It’s a business that now works with over 300 producers across the country, including women-led shea processing cooperatives and over 5,000 shea nut pickers. At Ele Agbe, artisans pass on their skills to the younger generations.

cherieblairfoundation.org

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