Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Cherie Blair: I want to see women achieve full equality before I die

By Catriona Davies, for CNN
April 23, 2013 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Cherie Blair attends the worldwide premier of Larry Crowne at the Westfield Shopping Center in London on June 6, 2011.
Cherie Blair attends the worldwide premier of Larry Crowne at the Westfield Shopping Center in London on June 6, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cherie Blair, wife of former UK PM Tony Blair, is a leading barrister in Britain
  • An advocate for women's rights, she started the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
  • Blair tells CNN about her route to success and juggling her legal and charity work

Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.

London, England (CNN) -- Cherie Blair, the UK's former first lady, is a leading barrister who holds the senior advocate status of Queen's Counsel. In 2008, she founded the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, where she devotes herself to supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa, South Asia & the Middle East.

She spoke with CNN's Leading Women team about her commitment to eradicating injustice for women, her rise from a working-class family and how she balances her charity work with her professional life.

CNN: What achievement are you most proud of?

Cherie Blair fights for girls' education

Cherie Blair: Like every mother, it's my children, that's the first thing that makes me really proud. For my own part, it would be when I became a Queen's Counsel in 1995. I was the 76th woman ever to become a Queen's Counsel, so it was still a pretty rare thing.

Empowering women around the world

Read: Blair, Gates, Amanpour: Things I wish I'd known at 15

CNN: What cause are you most passionate about?

CB: The thing I want to see before I die is women achieving full equality in the world. I'm very passionate about injustice against women and there's too much of it in the world. In so many parts of the world, women are not regarded as worthy or equal to men. In parts of the world women are bought and sold. We think that's just in the developing world, but women are bought and sold in our country, too.

CNN: Who are you most inspired by?

CB: My first inspiration was my own mother, who left school at 14 and started a career as an actress. Then my sister and I came along and my father abandoned her and she had to really pull herself up by the boot straps and work hard to support my sister and I. She was determined to make sure we got all the opportunities that she had been denied.

"The thing I want to see before I die is women achieving full equality in the world.
Cherie Blair

CNN: How do you find the balance between your work as a barrister and your charity foundation?

CB: It's always a difficult balance. There isn't a time or day when I don't think about both legal work and the Foundation.

I've just come back from Nigeria where I was doing a legal presentation and at the same time I was also doing something with our projects in Nigeria.

I'm very lucky that as a barrister I'm self-employed, so everything I do is on a project basis. I do this case and then another case, which allows me to mix and match. In theory that sounds very well planned and balanced, but in practice it's a little bit more chaotic and overlapping.

If I'm doing a particular legal case, I have to concentrate on that, but I'm lucky that the Foundation has a fantastic CEO and 17 employees, so they are working on it day in, day out. I'm very lucky to be able to add to the fruits of their labor.

Read: Your top-flight lawyer? She's a stay-at-home mom

"I'm very passionate about injustice against women and there's too much of it in the world.
Cherie Blair

CNN: How do you decide which causes to get involved with?

CB: Sometimes my friends would tell me I'm very bad at saying no. These days I completely understand one has to have a focus and that's around women and girls, but that, of course, encompasses so many things.

I'm Chancellor of the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, which is very much an education project.

My own Foundation concentrates on women's economic empowerment on the basis that if women have their own money and are able to support themselves they can make choices about what happens to them in their lives, about whether they have education, whether they get married and what happens to their children.

If they don't have financial independence and the means to support themselves, it's much more difficult for them to say no when people make them do things they don't want to do.

Tara Kelly and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this piece for CNN.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1045 GMT (1845 HKT)
Imagine a gadget that knows your mind better than you do.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
When your grandmother is one of the most famous cosmetics moguls in history, it might put a little pressure on you to succeed.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
bbf
When Bobbi Brown set out to create her eponymous makeup line in 1991, she had one thing to her mind -- to make a lipstick that looked like lips.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0914 GMT (1714 HKT)
The Cornell educated executive, who is hotly tipped as the successor to magnate Steve Wynn, is about to unveil the latest Wynn Palace in Macau.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
From Coco Chanel to DVF, CNN takes a look at celebrated fashion designers and the iconic pieces which launched their careers.
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
2 Caption:Avignon, FRANCE: Serb artist Marina Abramovic performs in 'The Biography Remix' directed by Michael Laub from Netherlands, 10 July 2005 at the Benoix-XII house during the Theater Festival held in Avignon southern France. AFP PHOTO ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN meets Serbian-born New-York based performance artist Marina Abramovic, as she embarks on the most controversial show of her career.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 1506 GMT (2306 HKT)
She turned her bohemian beach style and love of ballet shoes into a billion-dollar brand. This week on Leading Women, fashion designer Tory Burch reveals her ultimate style guru.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1623 GMT (0023 HKT)
Meet Mo Abudu, the talk show host portraying a very different Africa. As a glamorous presenter, she also heads up Ebony Life TV network, based in Nigeria.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
A lone blonde woman, wrapped in nothing but a sarong, leads four camels and a little dog across one of the most inhabitable environments on Earth.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Their job is capturing the most horrifying images on Earth -- keeping their eyes open, where others must look away. Meet Kate Brooks and Gerda Taro, the war photographers of today and yesterday.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
Former U.S. State Deparment Anne-Marie Slaughter says Brad Pitt is 'posterchild for engaged fatherhood'.
ADVERTISEMENT