UK-based fashion designer Euphemia-Ann Sydney-Davie is having a very good year. She was the darling of London Fashion Week this year. She reveled in opportunity to show off her unique creations before the fashion elite.
But perhaps even more impressive, she had the opportunity to show her work before British royalty. Sydney-Davie presented a suit inspired by Ghanaian culture at an event at Buckingham Palace hosted by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
Sydney-Davie's success is impressive by any standard. However, some may be even more impressed to know that she rose to the heights of her profession after coming to Britain as a refugee. Sydney-Davie fled the devastating conflict in Sierra Leone was just was a young girl, arriving in Europe at age 11.
She has since made her mark on Britain's fashion world. She shows off off eco-friendly and culturally inspired clothing to customers who can't get enough of her designs. And Sydney-Davie is only one of many female refugee entrepreneurs who is making Europe more diverse and exciting.
Female refugees face overwhelming challenges. Sydney-Davie, for example, fled her home in the midst of a brutal armed conflict. The war in Sierra Leone was extremely brutal. Human Rights Watch documented widespread human rights abuses against civilians. Women and children in conflict are especially at risk of horrifying atrocities.
War has subsided in Sierra Leone, but conflicts regularly flare up across developing nations. The UN Refugee Agency is still very concerned about abuse of refugees and asylum seekers. Particularly, women and children face heightened risk. In 2017, the UN received hundreds of reports of gender-based violence among refugees arriving in the Greek Islands.
Women reported that they were exposed to sexual harassment and similar inappropriate behavior. Even worse, many refugee women were subjected to attempted sexual attacks when they arrived in Europe.
Women and children refugees face high risks of ongoing violence even after fleeing conflict in their homeland. Many fear everyday activities that most of us take for granted, like showering and going to the latrine. Often, this fear leaves women feeling helpless and ashamed. This has long-lasting impacts on mental health and wellbeing. As a result, empowering women who arrive to Europe and North America as refugees is critical.
Women and girls represent more than half of the world's refugee population. According to the Women's Refugee Commission, they often face seemingly impossible challenges. Like all refugees, they are forced to adopt new strategies to cope with their new circumstances.
Additionally, women are also at increased risk of gender-based violence. Furthermore, women usually flee conflict with few, if any, economic resources. Many of them have few opportunities to develop economic skills. As a result, many women refugees have nothing to fall back on when they arrive in their new homes.
The UN has launched projects aimed at ending violence against female refugees and providing support for survivors. However, despite these efforts, conditions for refugee women remain harsh.
According to the agency, more than one in five refugee women face gender-based violence. Even after they flee conflict, poverty and abuse in their homelands, women refugees often face ongoing violence and discrimination.
Nobody should be forced to trade off between their safety and their livelihoods. Female refugees, as a result, need strong advocates and supporters. Lady Jamileh Kharrazi has committed much of her time, skills, and resources to filling that role. Lady Kharrazi understands that women displaced by conflict are entitled to wellbeing.
Thus, she has made it her mission to empower refugee women around the world. This includes supporting economic opportunities for entrepreneurial refugee women.
Female refugees face extreme challenges. Even among women refugees who find safety in their new homes, many are unprepared to provide for their families economically. However, with just a little bit of training and support, female refugees can become entrepreneurs who create economic opportunity.
This expands opportunities within the refugee community while empowering women who have been displaced by conflict.
Women entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to their local economies. According to Forbes, women entrepreneurs also do more for their communities than many of their male counterparts. In fact, women more commonly reinvest in social programs with the profits from their businesses.
So, promoting female entrepreneurship has real economic and social benefits in every community.
There are several ways the world can support female refugee entrepreneurs. Developing mentorship programs is a critical first step. Mentorship from high-achieving women can help female refugee entrepreneurs achieve economic success. Lady Kharrazi understands this fact, and she has worked hard to be a role model as well as a benefactor for displaced women. However, more still needs to be done. Refugee women need better business skills training to become more successful business owners.
They could especially benefit from specialized funding and educational programs aimed at female refugee entrepreneurs. These programs would have a trickle-down effect, ultimately benefiting everyone.
After all, empowering refugee women to participate more meaningfully in economy will build a more prosperous society for us all.
Reuters recently reported on Euphemia-Ann Sydney-Davies' overwhelming success in European fashion. She achieved so much after fleeing from the war in Sierra Leone, even showcasing her designs before royalty.
But the impacts of her business have brought more than economic success. It brought a greater degree of cultural appreciation and acceptance.
The diverse cultures refugees bring to their new homelands creates opportunities for learning. They arrive to new countries with their own cultural heritage in tow. This includes not only fashion, but also food, art, and other important aspects of their cultures.
Manal Kahi, a successful female entrepreneur in her own right, has found a way to build cultural acceptance while employee refugees. Kahi, founder of Eat Offbeat, was recently the focus of an article in Entrepreneur magazine.
Why? Because she has created a unique business that relies on the culinary talents of refugees. Eat Offbeat is a successful catering company in New York City. The company sets itself apart from the crowded NYC food industry by showcasing the native foods of 18 refugee chefs from 12 different countries.
Eat Offbeat customers can mix and match traditional dishes from exotic locales, and they can't get enough!
Kahi has found a unique way to employ talented refugees. This increases economic opportunities within the refugee community, but her company does so much more. Specifically, she exposes the American palate to new cuisines.
This not only makes for a delightful fusion dining experience, it also increases cultural acceptance.
All too often, people focus on our differences. However, things that divide the Western world from developing nations are less meaningful than the things that bring us together. We have different languages and ways of dressing.
We hold different holidays and prepare different foods. However, the more we are exposed to different cultures, the more we come to value them. As a result, supporting refugee entrepreneurs is critical in bridging cultural divides.
This is a passion for Lady Kharrazi as well. Through the Toos Foundation, she has created several programs aimed at increasing cultural understanding. By increasing cultural acceptance and understanding, advocates like Lady Kharrazi are making the world a better place for refugees and women worldwide.
Learn about the long life of Jamileh and all her accomplishments