WeAreTheCity and Visa are thrilled to introduce the inaugural Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20, an inspiring celebration of the extraordinary contributions made by refugee women to their communities. These women, often faced with adversity and displacement, have not only overcome their own challenges but have also dedicated their lives to giving back and creating positive change. It’s time to recognise and honour their incredible achievements!
Taban Shoresh shares her story as a survivor of child genocide. She is also a women’s rights activist and leads her own charity, The Lotus Flower that supports displaced women affected by conflict in the Middle East.
Comfort Etim shares her story about her mother selling everything she owned so she could play football professionally abroad. But believes the scout she trusted trafficked Comfort from Nigeria to London.
Comfort eventually sought asylum and now works tirelessly to support other female asylum seekers. She also harnesses football to empower, integrate and boost the health and wellbeing of migrant women.
Sara Shamsavari shares her harrowing story of how she survived kidney cancer and war – all before she was two years old. After fleeing the Iranian Revolution, she settled in the UK, and now explores themes like global identity, inclusion, and transformation in her work as a renowned artist and lecturer.
And psychologist Kateryna Shukh has dedicated her career to supporting women survivors of war and violence – first in Mariupol and the Donetsk region (following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014) and now from Warsaw in Poland.
These are just four of the 20 incredible women highlighted in the inaugural Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20 project. All of our Pioneer20 are breaking down stigmas and stereotypes, campaigning, changing lives, challenging narratives and empowering women and girls.
WeAreTheCity founder, Vanessa Vallely OBE, said: “WeAreTheCity has been humbled to read the stories of so many incredible women who were nominated for this year’s Pioneer 20. These women have shown such resilience, strength, and tenacity. Despite their own harrowing experiences, they have worked tirelessly to ensure that their fellow refugees and asylum seekers have the support they need to rebuild their lives. I am honoured that we have had the opportunity alongside Visa to shine a spotlight on their incredible work. Congratulations – you are an inspiration to us all.”
Katherine Brown, Vice-President, Inclusive Impact & Sustainability at Visa Europe, said: “It is an honour to be able to highlight the journeys of these inspirational women who make up the inaugural Pioneer 20 list. In many different ways, they have all worked incredibly hard to not only rebuild their lives after significant trauma and upheaval, but to support others who are going through similar experiences.”
The Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20 will be celebrated at two events both in London and Poland during September.
We would like to thank all the charities, NGOs and individuals who took time out to nominate these remarkable women. We would also like to thank the Pioneer 20 judges, Michelle Gethers, Chief Diversity Officer and Head of Corporate Responsibility, Visa, Zahid Torres-Rahman, Co-Founder, CEO at Business Fights Poverty, Salma Zulfiqar (BEM), Founder/Director of ARTconnects and Alfonsine Kabagabo, Director at Women for Refugee Women.