Katerina & Cherie Blair_web
lgin Ozdemir Yazgan, CBFW Alumna, Pembe Al Mazrouei, Middle East Chair of CBFW, Cherie Blair CBE, KC, Founder Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Katerina Pawlowska- Hanafin, COO and Co-Founder, Huriya Private & CBFW Mentor Image Credit: Supplied

International Women’s Day draws attention to the incredible work being done to address these challenges and make a positive impact on the lives of millions of underrepresented girls and women worldwide. One woman determined to make a difference is Katerina Pawlowska Hanafin. She is COO and Co-Founder of Huriya Private, a family-run Dubai business that launched its non-profit, charitable initiative Huriya Private Foundation in January 2021. One of Huriya Private Foundation’s key partnerships is with the Cherie Blair Foundation, with whom it collaborates on the Mentoring Women in Business Programme. Involvement in the programme, coupled with her positive experience as a mentor, inspired Hanafin to create a scholarship programme of her own, sponsored entirely by Huriya Private. This initiative currently funds 50 scholarships enabling female entrepreneurs to participate as mentors and partner with women mentees from low or middle-income countries.

Hanafin’s first two mentees were Annie Sibindi Murinda and Burcu Yapar. They were matched with Hanafin based on their business needs and Hanafin’s qualifications and experience in the corporate world. Murinda is the founder and managing director of Rufaro Garments, a school uniform manufacturing business based in South Africa, and Yapar is the co-founder of Inner Joy, a mindfulness and mental well-being app.

When Hanafin first met Murinda and Yapar, she was struck by their drive and vision. “I was impressed not only by the passion and drive both women had, but also their receptiveness and willingness to learn from my experience. It’s been wonderful to see the success their businesses have had and to have played a part in their professional growth.”

On the mentorship experience, Yapar believes its greatest benefit is the positive reinforcement it gives the mentee and the considerable benefit of having someone else’s input. “I believe the true value of a mentorship experience is the different perspective it offers and having someone to turn to when you begin to question yourself. Katerina was really supportive during challenging times, and it was really helpful to hear that having ups and downs is a normal part of running a business.”

Stories like Hanafin’s, Murinda’s and Yapar’s are a reminder of the power of women when they unite and support each other, and how they thrive when given the opportunities they deserve.