Women's Business Network for UNHCR hosts inaugural brunch in South Africa

South Africa. Women to Women brunch by the Women's Business Network for UNHCR

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Leanne Manas moderates a panel with Head of UNHCR Private Sector Partnerships, Needa Jehu-Hoyah, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Old Mutual, Mandisa Mathobela and Sarah, a refugee university student living in South Africa.   © UNHCR/Kaimara

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The Women’s Business Network for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, hosted their inaugural brunch, Women to Women, yesterday at Sandton Convention Centre in honour of National Women’s Month. The event served as an awareness building and advocacy opportunity to support access to education for refugee youth across Africa. 

Kristin Davis, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and American actress best known for her role in Sex and the City was the keynote speaker for the event. “The Women’s Business Network for UNHCR is a wonderful example of how we can support the journeys of people who have been forced to flee. Bringing to attention the needs of refugee girls and women has never been more important and giving them a chance in life through education is vital in helping them rebuild their lives,” said Davis.

Leanne Manas, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and award-winning TV and Radio presenter served as the Master of Ceremonies for the inaugural brunch which also included a musical performance by South African singer, Lira. Tresor Mpauni, a refugee performer from Malawi performed his slam poetry and two young refugee women students living in South Africa shared their personal journeys fleeing conflict and the struggles they both faced in starting anew. 

Edith Venter, South African philanthropist and event organizer serves as the Chair of the network and is the fundraiser’s key organizer. “The Women’s Business Network for UNHCR was convened very recently and brings together women business and community leaders, and leading women entrepreneurs in South Africa committed to improving the lives of those forced to flee violence, conflict or persecution in the continent,” said Venter. 

The brunch event also raised over R 320,000 through donations and a charity auction. Auction items included a six-night stay at Fairmont hotels across Kenya, Swarovski crystal jewelry sets, and purse worn from Kristin Davis’s character, Charlotte, from the Sex and the City show.

“We applaud the efforts of the Women’s Business Network for UNHCR for yesterday’s event in raising awareness and funds for the over 25 million forcibly displaced people across Africa,” said Needa Jehu-Hoyah, head of UNHCR Private Sector Partnerships Africa. “UNHCR greatly appreciates and welcomes private sector engagement to support people forced to flee to not only survive their harrowing journeys but also provide the tools and support to become contributing members of their host communities,” she added.

During her visit to South Africa, Davis a met with young women refugees, who through the support of UNHCR, its donor countries and implementing partners, have received scholarships to attend university. “It has been truly wonderful meeting these young women who have such spirit and strength to overcome their circumstances and persevere for a better future for themselves and their families. Meeting these refugee students has left me inspired,” said Davis. 

For more information, please contact: 

In Johannesburg: Verushen Appalsamy: +27 82 770 4189, [email protected]

In Johannesburg: Edith Venter: +27 83 700 0399, [email protected]