Six Refugee Women who broke boundaries

Six Refugee Women who broke boundaries

On International Women’s day, we look at some women who were refugees and broke boundaries and the barriers forced on girl refugees to become advocates and influential women.

Clara Zetkin

The advocate who contributed to the first International Women’s Day.

Women’s rights activist Clara Jenkins born in 1857 was one of the contributors to the first International Women’s Day in 1910.

Active during Bismarck’s Germany she was forced to seek political asylum in Paris in the late 19th century due to the ban placed on socialist activity. Woman, asylum seeker, fighter. A true inspiration

Warsan Shire

London based Somali writer & poet, Shire’s family fled the troubled east African country in the late 80’s when she was one. Drawing from that experience in much of her poetry. She writes the line often quoted to bring some understanding to the refugee crisis No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”. Her stirring poetry has captured the attention of Beyoncé who quotes her in her latest album Lemonade.


Singer, writer, designer and producer M.I. A. born Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam fled the Sri Lankan civil war in 1984 to England at the age of 9. By 2004 she was making waves as a visual artist and rapper. In 2007 she released Paper Planes and the rest as they say is history.

Shappi Korsandi

In the early 80’s Shappi and her family fled the Iran during the Islamic Revolution after her Father wrote a satirical poem critiquing the regime.

Speaking no English on arrival to England at the age of 6 she has become a master of the language and later became the quick witted ‘English’ comedian lighting up our screens today.

Alek Wek

South Sudanese model Alek Wek fled the civil war in Sudan in the early 90’s for Britain. She is now a successful fashion model and designer that has walked for many notable fashion houses including Chanel, Dior and Oscar de la Renta.

Rita Ora

British Singer Rita Ora is a household name best known as a judge on The Voice and X- Factor. But you may not know she was born in Pristina, SFR Yugoslavia (present day Kosovo) to Albanian parents. Her family were forced to flee to Britain in the early 90’s due to the increased political persecution of Albanians during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

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