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Cherie Blair was awarded the CBE in the New Year Honours for her services to women’s issues and charity.

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The wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair has used the prominence she gained during her time in Downing Street to raise both funds and awareness for a wide range of charities at home and overseas.

The 58-year-old is patron of Breast Cancer Care, Refuge, Scope and the Community Foundation for Merseyside, honorary vice-president - and formerly president - of Barnados, and president of the Loomba Foundation, which campaigns to alleviate the plight of widows around the world.

In 2008, she founded the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which runs programmes in many parts of the developing world, including Africa, India and the Middle East, to help women set up and expand businesses in order to gain financial independence.

Mrs Blair was appointed vice-chair of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership in 2011 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, advising the US government on how its foreign policy can support women’s economic empowerment around the world.

Following the announcement that she had been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a spokesman for Mrs Blair said: “Cherie Blair is very honoured to receive this award.”

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said that Mrs Blair first visited one of the disability charity’s centres in 1998 and became a patron in 2002. She has supported dozens of events, including annual charity trading days and dinners which have between them raised £750,000 for Scope.

Mr Hawkes said it was “fantastic” that her work for charity had been recognised with an honour, adding: “Cherie has been a patron of the disability charity Scope for 10 years, and is a passionate advocate for our work improving the lives of disabled people and their families.

“Cherie’s background as a human rights barrister, combined with her strong interest and understanding of our work, makes her one of our most committed supporters. She frequently gives up her time, mobilises her contacts, and provides knowledge and expertise in a variety of ways that help our work supporting disabled people.

“We are incredibly fortunate to work with her, and are delighted that the Queen has recognised the exhaustive charity work Cherie undertakes, both in the UK and abroad.”

Breast Cancer Care said it was “delighted” to hear of the award for Mrs Blair, who has been a patron since 1997.

A spokesman said she had devoted “a huge amount of personal time and effort” to the charity, adding: “Her intense level of support has had an enormous impact on us and we regard Cherie as a huge asset and support in delivering on this ambition on all fronts.

“Away from the glare of publicity it is Cherie’s human touch that makes her so loved and appreciated by our supporters. She goes out of her way to take the time to listen to the experiences of people affected by breast cancer, and to thank and encourage staff and volunteers.”

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