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5 Inspiring Women From Refugee Backgrounds

It’s International Women’s Day 2021! To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of 5 inspiring women who have come from refugee backgrounds:


1) M.I.A. (Rapper)

Remember the song paper planes? That was the work of M.I.A.! Also known as Mathangi Arulpragasam, she is famous for her rapping talents, being an awesome singer, producer and an activist, for a range of causes including refugee rights. M.I.A. came to the UK at the age of 9 from a war-torn Sri-Lanka and has since built up a hugely successful career. She has won numerous awards and has previously been nominated for the Oscars and Grammys. Her song ‘Borders’ was a reference to the 2015 European migrant crisis.


2) Warsan Shire (Writer/Poet)

Born in Kenya to Somali refugees, Warsan migrated to the UK as a young child. Warsan’s poetry has been read in several countries worldwide and her work also features in Beyonce’s film ‘Lemonade’. Her poem ‘Home’ speaks about reasons why refugees may leave home and prompts a broader discussion around the refugee crisis in this world.


3) Mursal Hedayat (Businesswoman)

Mursal was born in Afghanistan and emigrated to the UK with her mother at 3 years old. Mursal has co-founded ‘Chatterbox’, an education technology company which trains and employs refugees as teachers. Chatterbox has been featured on a number of top start-up lists. Mursal herself has also been on the Forbes list ’30 under 30’, and one of the Financial Times’ Inclusive Boards Top 100 Most Influential Leaders in Tech list.


4) Alek Wek (Model/Designer)

Alek fled the civil war in Sudan when she was 9 years old and moved to London. In 1995 at the age of 18, she was discovered by a model scout and has since enjoyed an extremely successful international career as a model and designer. In 2004, she became the first black model to close the Chanel haute couture show. She is a prominent voice for refugees and was appointed as the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2013.


5) Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Journalist/Author)

Originally from Uganda, Yasmin moved to the UK after graduating from Makerere University in Uganda. With her knack for words, she has written for countless newspapers, including the Guardian, New York Times and the Daily Mail. She regularly speaks out regarding the issues of multiculturalism and immigration. In 2001, she was awarded an MBE for her services to journalism.


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