Cherie Blair Foundation (CBF) is a mentorship programme for women in business where young women entrepreneurs in Uganda and other countries are matched with mentors from different parts of the world under CBF aimed at enabling women in business gain more knowledge and skills on how best they can improve on their businesses based on the mentees’ interest and request. In Uganda, CBF works with Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to help identify potential women entrepreneurs who have access to the internet to be part of the online mentorship programme.
The mentorship programme starts with a few selected women being nominated and I was happy to be among the few nominees for the May 2017 cycle which run for a period of one year.
The foundation shortly gave the nominees a test for the mentees to be considered fully for the mentorship programme. This was not as simple as I had thought it would be because the CBF shared a number of handouts to be read before the test but fortunate enough I qualified for the one-year mentorship. The interesting part was that there was no deadline for the test through a specific period was set for it, so you have to apparently execute the test when ready.
CBF matched me with a mentor from the Czech Republic after filling in an application form on what I expected to learn from the mentorship programme. Based on the mentorship programme, it is the mentee to drive the conversation but my mentor was so gratis and emailed me first. This built our relationship so strong and made me so ecstatic since my mind was so puzzled with thoughts on how I could possibly communicate to my mentor since this was the very first time I was having a mentor who again resides in another country.
We (my mentor and I) got to know each other and I was delighted that we shared a little in common. This was followed by a suggested topic to be discussed for our next meeting.
The first day of our online meeting was on a WhatsApp video call and we started by getting to know each other more, why I got interested in the mentorship programme and I also shared with her the situation of women in Uganda.
I have gained a lot from the mentorship programme since I was able to set a goal, mission and vision for my business. I with the help of my mentor also designed an action plan, a business plan and we also came up with a development strategy in order to enable my business progress. We discussed the challenges I have faced for my business and this enabled me to come up with ways forward. I was able to lay down strategies, develop a SWOT analysis, approaches, set a timeline and answer the questions of why what, who, when and how about my business.
Besides what I learnt, I got so interested in how to design a business plan for the business because this enabled me to plan so well for the business and answer questions of who are my potential customers, how do I plan to bring the products on the market and how to recover my investment and among others.
CBF of mentoring women in business is a very impactful programme especially for the women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses and for those women interested in starting up a business. I am so grateful to CBF because I have learnt a lot and I know many women entrepreneurs do not get the opportunity which only requires you to have access to the internet to learn.
However because of the limited access to the internet especially in Uganda due to the high cost of mobile phones, the introduction of social media taxes by Ugandan Government in June 2018 and high cost of internet bundles. Women as well earn 30-50% less than men according to the 2015 Web Foundation research report which Uganda was part. This shall affect women entrepreneurs especially SMEs from benefiting in this program due to limited access to the internet and affordability of the ICT tools to join the online mentorship programme.
I advise the mentorship programme to find a way to make the programme also benefit other entrepreneurs offline because there are a number of women who have the ideas of business or are already in business especially in the rural areas but they lack mentorship to grow their businesses.
Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy Officer