Businesses collectively pledge to offer mentorship to over 600 LGBTQ refugees in the UK at UK Business Summit for LGBTQ Refugees

LGBTQ refugees and asylees fleeing their home countries often face additional layers of exclusion, persecution, and violence. As the number of LGBTQ refugees around the world continues to grow, and as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan unfolds, it has become even more pressing that LGBTQ refugees are able to integrate into the communities where they resettle. To help LGBTQ refugees restart their lives and navigate the job market in their host communities, global businesses have committed to mentoring 615 LGBTQ refugees in the UK over the next three years.

At the UK Business Summit on LGBTQ Refugees, a virtual event hosted by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, Stonewall, and Micro Rainbow, 19 companies – including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Pfizer, and Paypal – each pledged to mentor at least 50 LGBTQ refugees. 

Chobani founder and CEO and founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, Hamdi Ulukaya, emphasized the importance of businesses taking a stand on human rights, especially in light of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. 

“If you have any walls you want to break, businesses and brands can move us along faster,” Mr. Ulukaya said during the program. “In Afghanistan and particularly in LGBTQ communities, we have no minute to waste,” he added.

The program was moderated by Hugo Greenhalgh, LGBT+ Editor at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and brought together advocates like Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, and television presenter and diversity expert June Sarpong OBE.

“When LGBTQ+ people and refugees are able to bring their whole selves to work, they’re able to make an incredible difference to the life of a company,” Ms. Kelley said. “For many refugees, they will have never worked in a country where it is ok to be out. Getting that context is really an invaluable process,” she later added.

Ms. Sarpong reiterated the benefits a program like this can have on workplace culture and inclusion initiatives. 

“Having a program like this in the workplace ensures empathy, but also ensures that this diverse talent can truly be made to feel like they belong,” she said. 

The program also featured a conversation with Moud Goba, an LGBTQ refugee who fled Zimbambwe and now lives in the UK. Ms. Goba currently serves as National Manager for Micro Rainbow, the country’s leading organization supporting the integration of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. 

After acknowledging that she herself would have benefited from a mentorship program when she first arrived in the UK, Ms. Goba shared advice for companies participating in the LGBTQ refugee mentorship initiative, saying, Value refugees, listen to their experiences, and understand where they need to grow and where they need to land.”

“If you come from a country where being an out LGBTQ person is profoundly unsafe in the workplace, in your community, or in your family, feeling safe to be yourself at work is an incredibly high bar,” said Ms. Kelley. “The value of this program is saying to people… you are welcome, exactly as you are.”

To find out more about the initiative and the 19 companies which committed to mentoring LGBTQ refugees, read the press release here, and watch the event recording below. 


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