In NYC, Blair touts cell phones for Kenyan women

By Karen Matthews
Associated Press Writer / May 14, 2010

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NEW YORK—The wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair asked business leaders at a meeting convened by Bill Clinton on Thursday to help her put cell phones into the hands of women in Kenya.

Cherie Blair said mobile phones are "a vital educational, health and economic tool" that can help women in the developing world achieve equality with men.

Blair, a human rights lawyer, was in New York attending the midyear meeting of the former U.S. president's Clinton Global Initiative. She said that with the right applications, cell phones are "the poor person's computer."

"We all talk about apps now, but actually you can do amazing things with apps," Blair said. "You can do amazing things in the medical field, in the financial field and in the educational field to bring facilities and information to people where you don't have clinics, where you don't have schools and where you certainly don't have access to banks."

She asked conference attendees to support a pilot project to give mobile phones to 4,000 women entrepreneurs in Kenya, a poor East African nation where about half the population of 40 million people survives on less than $2 a day.

Clinton started the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005 to bring together the public and private sectors to discuss solutions to problems in four areas -- climate change, poverty, global health and education.

Conference attendees are expected to pledge to work on global issues. Those who don't follow through on their commitments are not invited back.

Blair congratulated Clinton on the initiative, adding: "This baby is a great achievement, but not as great, I'm sure, as the achievement you will feel later on this year when you stand there as the proud father of the bride."

Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, is engaged to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. The Clinton family has not announced the wedding date, but it's believed to be this summer.