In a world often marked by adversity and displacement, stories of strength, perseverance, and hope emerge, reminding us of the indomitable spirit of humanity. This week, Visa and WeAreTheCity held their Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20 celebration ceremony on World Refugee Day to celebrate twenty incredible refugee women in business.

Refugee women frequently endure unimaginable hardships when they are compelled to flee their homelands due to conflict, persecution, or other life-threatening situations. Upon arrival in unfamiliar territories, they must navigate language barriers, cultural differences, and numerous socio-economic challenges. Establishing a business in their new environment adds to these difficulties, including securing access to finance and lacking support networks. Despite these obstacles, many resilient women across Europe have been tirelessly rebuilding their lives and establishing sustainable businesses. They have overcome significant barriers and are also employing other refugees, contributing to their financial empowerment.

The event at Visa’s headquarters in London brought together organisations, and supporters from charities and NGOs to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the Pioneer 20. In a spirit of unity and empowerment, the ceremony highlighted refugee women’s crucial role in shaping the business landscape across Europe.

You can read all about the Pioneer 20 here.

Vanessa Vallely OBE, CEO and Founder of WeAreTheCity opened the event. This was followed by a panel discussion where three of the Pioneers shared their experiences as female entrepreneurs. David Whitelaw, Vice President of Business Planning and Operations at Visa, facilitated the panel, which featured Laila Majeed, Founder of Gilguzi; Maria Igwebuike, Founder of Maria Callisto; Yelyzaveta Tataryna, Founder of Cream Dream Cafe; and Charlie Fraser, Co-founder and CEO of TERN (the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network).

The awards ceremony that followed underscored the importance of inclusivity and the incredible potential that can be harnessed when we embrace diversity. The event served as a reminder that refugees, especially women, bring with them a wealth of skills, talents, and perspectives that can enrich the societies that welcome them. The honourees at the awards ceremony were not just celebrated for their personal achievements but also for the positive impact they had on their host communities. Their stories showed that refugees are not merely recipients of aid but active contributors to society, helping to create more inclusive and vibrant communities.

As the event came to a close, it was clear that the stories of these remarkable refugee women were not just stories of survival but stories of triumph, resilience, and hope. They serve as a reminder that in the face of adversity, the human spirit can soar to incredible heights, bringing light to even the darkest of times. The celebration was a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit and the limitless potential of refugee women when given the chance to thrive.

Once again, we would like to offer our congratulations to all the remarkable women featured on this year’s Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20 list.

Our special thanks to the team at Visa for providing WeAreTheCity with the opportunity to partner on this initiative for the second year. Special thanks to Tribeni Chougule, Tashiana Hodge, Lukasz Ogonowski, Agata Laight and our supporting partners, TERN and the 10 Group.

Photo gallery of the event

Pioneer 20 2024 - Top 20 refugee women in the EU

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