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Giulia and Sevi

Please join us in welcoming the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s new CEO, Sevi Simavi. I would like to thank everyone who has supported the Foundation during my time as Interim CEO. It is wonderful to be able to go on my maternity leave, knowing that the Foundation’s new Chief Executive is in place. We are extremely fortunate to have Sevi joining us. She comes with a wealth of experience in international development and passion for women’s economic empowerment. We are delighted to have her on board and the Foundation team is looking forward to the year ahead. I have asked Sevi a few questions by way of introduction.

When did you first become interested in women’s economic empowerment?

I have been interested in women’s economic empowerment my entire life. I was born and raised in Turkey and you become very aware of gender norms and expectations around what a woman can and cannot do from very early on in life. During my time working on poverty eradication with the World Bank Group, based in Washington DC, I realised that gender issues exist in all corners of the world – just in a different scale and form. Yet, I have also observed first hand, both in developed and developing countries, real progress in the entire society occurs when a woman is able to earn a living. Women who are financially independent have greater control over their lives and they have a voice, respect and standing in their communities in tackling injustice.

Scientific research also demonstrates over and over again that when a woman is able to earn a living, her entire family and community prosper. Her children are not malnourished; they can continue their schooling; birth-rates go down and household decision-making becomes more democratic. Therefore, women’s economic empowerment is much more than a women’s issue: it is fundamental to economic development, fundamental to human rights, fundamental to achieving more equitable and democratic societies around the world.

What is the most valuable expertise you bring from your previous positions at the World Bank Group?

My expertise lies at the intersection of enterprise development, access to capital, women’s economic empowerment and capacity development, which really combines all of the Foundation’s programmatic focuses. My diverse experience has given me a profound understanding of the challenges women face in starting and operating their businesses in developing countries and have led the initiation, design, roll-out and implementation of multi-year reform programmes to solve many of these challenges. Having worked in multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary teams, I bring a holistic view to solve the challenges on the ground.

What was your primary motivation for joining the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women?

I am very inspired and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. It is an organisation with a visionary strategy and a collaborative and participatory approach to development. What attracted me the most is the unique focus on women entrepreneurs and innovative programmes to overcome their challenges. I think the Foundation has done remarkably well since its inception just five years ago, reaching over 70,000 women in more than 50 countries. I am looking forward to expanding our reach and impact even more in the coming years. My work to date has brought me in contact with many of the Foundation’s current partners. I am looking forward to deepening these relationships and also developing new working relationships with partners around the world.

What will be your first priority as new CEO?

I am looking forward to taking on this exciting role. The Foundation’s first priority has always been and will always be the women we support, alongside strong partnerships that enable us to reach so many. The team here has a fantastic track record of collaboration, avoiding reinventing wheel and ensuring the Foundation adds value. I am fully aware of the tremendous responsibility the not-for-profit leaders have to their donors, beneficiaries and stakeholders, thus I am very focused on and committed to achieving tangible results. I am looking forward to leading our efforts and ensuring we continue to innovate, deliver with excellence and provide the highest quality support in such a way that not only benefits the women we directly reach through our programmes, but also their families and communities in the long term.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Henriette

    Excited to see the Foundation continue to expand. Congratulations Sevi, you will love the job! The Foundation Team is extraordinary, the Founder the best you can wish for and the Board insightful and supportive. You will have a blast, no doubt! I will follow from afar and continue to work on supporting women to build their confidence, capability and capital.
    Henriette Kolb, former CEO and now IFC Head of Gender Secretariat

  • Farah

    Congratulations. G(irls)20 hopes to have a robust partnership with you moving forward. Please do get in touch when you have a moment.

    Best wishes,


  • Wade Channell

    Congratulations on an excellent choice in CEOs! Having had the pleasure and privilege of working with Sevi while she was at the World Bank, I look forward hopefully to working with her again, from my own new post as an economic growth advisor for gender.

  • Anna

    Dear Sevi! It was really great to open the newsletter and see you name! Congratulations on this new appoitment and my best wishes! Anna

  • Immaculate

    Dear Ms Simavi,

    As a great supporter and admirer of The CBFW foundation, I would like to congratulate you upon your new appointment. I look forward to learning more in the Newsletter.

    With best regards

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