The event, the first of its kind in the Middle East, aims to connect female migrant and refugee entrepreneurs with the Egyptian startup ecosystem.
“Back in Syria, it wasn’t normal for a woman to have her own business or even think about it. If women wanted to work they could be teachers or employees in an organization," 37-year-old Soad Mohamed Al-Sayed tells Startup Scene. Al-Sayed is a mother of four who lost her husband to the sea while journeying to Europe. Now a certified human development trainer, the young leader gives lectures and trainings to youth and women from Egypt, to Jordan, to Turkey. Like many other Syrians, the war forced her to flee to Egypt with her family to seek safety and better living conditions. She didn’t always have the ambition to be a famous trainer or a well known speaker; "But the war changed us women to get out of the cocoon that we were living in," she says.
According to the Brookings Institute, there are 5 million refugees and immigrants in Egypt, mostly from Syria. Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, there has been a massive influx of refugees coming to the Arab world's most populous country. Many of them have created thriving businesses, having contributed $800 million to the Egyptian economy since 2011.
Setting off to connect migrant entrepreneurs with the local startup ecosystem and shed light on the opportunities for their ventures, Women on the Move is an event for Cairo-based entrepreneurs to attend trainings, talks and networking sessions with key players in the Egyptian startup ecosystem. Organised by Startups Without Borders along with its partners - Entreprenelle, Fard Foundation, The GrEEK Campus, Syrian network Khatwa, and UNHCR - the event will gather some of the most inspiring Egyptian female investors, mentors, and entrepreneurs in Egypt to share their success stories, discuss challenges, and access opportunities in the entrepreneurial field.
“Migrant women entrepreneurs are the people that we need to focus on the most. Many of them are newly heads of households and, having to carry multiple burdens they’ve never seen or have to deal with before, they need the most support that anybody can give. They are carrying the load of feeding their family, caring for their family, and in many cases operate alone, without the typical support of the men of the family or the extended family. I can’t think of any more worthy cause to support than this one,” says Ahmed El Alfi, investor, Chairman of Sawari Ventures, and founder of The Greek Campus.
“Around the world, there is a growing startup scene made up of incubators and accelerators for migrant and refugee entrepreneurs. We want to lay the ground for a genuine migrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, where driven individuals can access the vast amount of resources at their disposal to start their businesses, wherever they are,” says Valentina Primo, founder of Startups Without Borders. The platform has gathered over 100 organizations - including incubators and accelerators for migrants - on their database, and will launch an AI-powered chatbot for migrants and refugees to find opportunities during the event.
The event features an all-female speaker lineup, including Dina El-Shenoufy, CIO of Flat6Labs, Dalia Kamar, Manager of the RiseUp Summit, Rasha Tantawy, Head of Business Support and Entrepreneurship at Egypt’s Technology Innovation and entrepreneurship Center (TIEC), and Salma El Hariry, founder of S[k]aleUp Ventures and the Vested Summit.
“When forced to leave their comfort zone, women on the move develop adaptive traits that make them stronger, more ambitious and resilient as they become great business opportunities waiting to happen. But creating the right environment to foster their creativity and dreams remains a challenge in new unfamiliar grounds. This event integrates migrant women with the Egyptian ecosystem to reach their own unique business potential.” Says Rasha Abu El Maati, co-founder of Fard Foundation.
Aiming to raise awareness on the existing opportunities in the startup landscape, the event plans on integrating female migrant and refugee entrepreneurs into the Egyptian ecosystem, providing them with concrete know-how through a workshop and mentorship sessions. The panel discussions will be hosted by Yara El-Braidy, followed by an ideation workshop provided by Entreprenelle, and a series of mentorship sessions, where women will be able to access personalised business advise. "Supporting refugees is part of our mandate at Entreprenelle, as we believe that they have to engage in the community. We can't ignore the potential and the add-on they have in each community in each and every country they join,” says Rania Ayman, founder of Entreprenelle.
Earlier in February, Startups Without Borders partnered with Startup Syria for the first meetup in the country of pharaohs, held at AlMaqarr co-working space and hosted by Syrian entrepreneur Sami Al Ahmad. “I believe that focusing on empowering female refugees is very important. This event, where NGOs and companies work together on the issue, is a great step for the empowerment of women of different nationalities,” Al Ahmad, founder of Khatwa, says.
Find out more about the event and sign up here.
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