New Cherie Blair Foundation for Women strategy to tackle gender gap in entrepreneurship and revolutionise business opportunities for over one million women entrepreneurs

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has launched a new landmark organisational strategy. ‘Ready for Business’ will see the NGO significantly scale up its work to revolutionise business opportunities for one million more women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries by 2030—the end point of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals—and rapidly accelerate progress for women across the world.

Launched to mark International Women’s Day, this ambitious new strategy will guide the Foundations’ work from 2023 to 2026, building on the success of the organisation’s last strategy that saw it support over 100,00 women in just four years.. 

In order to reach one million women entrepreneurs and support them to start and grow successful businesses and drastically shift business ecosystems so they can thrive, by 2026 the Foundation will:

  • Deliver and partner on a comprehensive range of women-centred services to enable women’s successful entrepreneurship.
  • Grow a network of delivery partners delivering a flexible range of services for women entrepreneurs. 
  • Host a thriving community of expertise in women’s entrepreneurship: sharing, learning, advocating for change and challenging the barriers facing women. 
  • Lead global advocacy to challenge the systems and structures holding women back from success. 
  • Create a membership community committed to funding the Foundation’s work so that women have the opportunities to fulfil their potential as entrepreneurs.

The Ready for Business strategy is underpinned by the Foundation’s latest research on the experiences of over 700 women entrepreneurs in nearly 80 low and middle income countries. It finds that women continue to battle multiple challenges and need a far more supportive business environment.

Difficulties in accessing finance, the cost of living crisis, ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls, gender stereotypes and discrimination, and unpaid care work all present key challenges. With almost nine out of 10 (89%) women surveyed reporting to the Foundation that the costs of living crisis and high inflation has negatively impacted their businesses, the strategy will enable the Foundation to provide timely support to some of the world’s most pressing economic challenges.

“When you empower a woman, you empower a nation. If I am doing well, then everyone around me from my family to my community will be empowered, especially the women.” – Ngozi Oyewole, founder of Noxie Limited and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Road to Growth programme alumna, Nigeria

“I am hugely excited to embark on this ambitious new strategy with the Foundation. In the wake of the global pandemic and current economic crises there has never been a more important time to invest in the power of women entrepreneurs. I know that these women have the power to change the world and I know the Foundation has the expertise and commitment to support them along the way.” – Cherie Blair CBE KC, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.


Featured image: Women entrepreneurs graduating from the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Road to Growth training programme in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2022. Download here for usage.

An embargoed copy of the Ready for Business strategy can be downloaded here. This is strictly embargoed until 7 March 2023.

For more information, please contact Kristin Tadlock, Senior Communications Officer at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women:

About Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women works with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries. We work together to enable women entrepreneurs to reach their potential. We are committed to eliminating the global gender gap in entrepreneurship and creating a future where women entrepreneurs thrive.

Since our inception in 2008, we have supported more than 230,000 women to start and grow successful micro, small and medium-sized businesses in over 100 countries.

Training, mentoring, networking, and collaboration are at the heart of our work, deploying technology innovatively to reach and connect with more women worldwide. Our approach opens doors for women entrepreneurs to networks, finance, new markets, investments and opportunities.

As a result, women create a future for themselves, their families, and their communities. In turn, they contribute to more robust economies, global gender equality and a thriving entrepreneurial sector.



About the Foundation’s new research

Our new research publication, ‘Resilience and Determination in the Face of Global Challenges: 2022 Annual Audit of Women Entrepreneurs in Low and Middle Income Countries’, will be published to coincide with the launch of the new strategy on 7 March.

This research is based on the responses of 718 women entrepreneurs from 78 low and middle income countries. Key findings include:

Women entrepreneurs are highly motivated and optimistic:

  • The most popular responses to a question about key motivations for women entrepreneurs, was that women were motivated by a desire improve their own or their families’ lives (19%) or create better conditions for their communities (12%).
  • Despite a challenging economic and external environment, 83% reported feeling optimistic about the future of their business. Most usually women reported feeling optimistic because of ‘internal’ reasons, such as a deep self-belief, hope and passion for their business (38.6% of respondents).

Women entrepreneurs continue to battle multiple challenges:

  • COVID 19: 78.4% of respondents reported that the economic impact of COVID-19 had negatively impacted their business, with 19.9% reporting they lost income. Yet despite ‘build back better’ agendas only one in ten (10.3%) had received any government support.
  • Global economic challenges: 89% of women told us that the costs of living crisis and high inflation had negatively impacted their business.
  • Gender based discrimination: Nearly half of women entrepreneurs (49%) reported that they had faced discrimination as an entrepreneur due to the fact that they are a woman. Just over a quarter (26.1%)  of respondents reported they are not taken seriously or they are not seen as good entrepreneurs because they are women. Crucially, many women also reported experiences of violence against women and girls – including physical abuse and sexual harassment – whilst conducting business.
  • Access to finance: 44.3% of respondents felt that they did not have equal access to formal investment opportunities. Whilst over two-thirds (67.7%) of respondents reported having some financial investment in their business, for 58.7% of these women the investment was from their own savings or selling assets/ Far fewer, 38.9%%, had received finance through a ‘formal’ financial services provider, such a Bank or Private Equity firm.
  • Unequal distribution of unpaid caring responsibilities: Half of respondents (49%) reported their unpaid care work had increased since the beginning of the pandemic. 41% of respondents are carrying out four or more hours of  unpaid care a day. The impact of unpaid care on women entrepreneurs is stark with 19% of respondents reporting that it has undermined business performance or limited the growth of their business.

Key recommendations:

  • A supportive policy environment: Ensure women entrepreneurs are put at the forefront of policy and COVID-19 recovery commitments, recognising the systemic challenges they face and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
  • Boost access to finance: Design and implement more suitable and inclusive investment and financing options specifically for women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries
  • Visibility: Make women entrepreneurs more visible by showcasing and celebrating successful women entrepreneurs and make their contributions to economy, development.
  • Support myth-busting: challenging gender stereotypes or harmful social norms about women and women entrepreneurs through campaigns and communications.
  • Recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care: through gender transformative policies and practices as well as more inclusive universal social protections.
  • Safety and protection from violence against women and girls: Ensure there are relevant policies and protections in place so that women entrepreneurs experience safety at work and at home.

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