Female social impact entrepreneurs recognised for trailblazing work

Four female social impact entrepreneurs from the Middle East and North Africa had their work recognised in The Bicester Collection’s inaugural edition of the Unlock Her Future Prize

Eight finalists representing Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine,  Saudi Arabia and the UAE attended a pitch day in London to compete to become the winners of the start-up competition, which aims to identify and support women leveraging innovation as a force for good. 

The winners’ ceremony was held on International Women’s Day, hosted by author and women’s activist Lina AbiRafeh

Each will receive a business grant of up to $100,000, bespoke mentorship from international  experts and an education programme from presenting partner New York University Abu Dhabi. 

So who were the winners?

1. Noor Jaber, from Lebanon, with Nawat. Noor hopes to enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) through a safe and accessible digital space providing SRSH knowledge in Arabic via educational content and consultations with qualified experts, offering confidentiality, privacy and convenience. 

“I’m so thrilled to have been selected as a winner of the Unlock Her Future Prize, this initiative brings validation to my passion and to my mission to bring the importance of women’s reproductive health out into the open and to empower women to care for their well-being and  take informed decisions about their bodies,” she said.

2. Sara Llalla, from Iraq, with EcoCentric. EcoCentric is an online marketplace and circular economy system designed to mitigate microplastic food contamination and eliminate plastic waste.

Winning this prestigious prize validates the need of EcoCentric’s services in our society,” she said. “We’re introducing the only truly sustainable food packaging system, which should be normalised as  part of our everyday and now is the perfect time to launch this in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the host of COP 28.

Inspired by the power of product invention, the judges decided to allocate the third prize between two finalists who are at different stages of the development of their invention.  

3. Fella Bouti, from Algeria, with Ecodalle. Fella provides ecological construction and homogeneous, economical and integrated irrigation solutions to improve large cities’ air quality and urban temperature. 

Unlock Her Future stands for the power of women, this is an incredible opportunity, it will be life changing for me!” said Fella.

4. Nuhayr Zein, from UAE, with Leukeather. This is a sustainable and ethical vegetal material alternative to exotic leathers made from dried plant pods, and a by-product of existing agriculture which minimises  its carbon footprint and provides an additional source of income for farming communities. 

“The Unlock Her Future Prize will allow Leukeather to develop, so that we may all take a step  forward towards a more eco-friendly and responsible world by collaborating with nature and  completely eliminating the unethical and wasteful killing of exotic species,” she said.

Commenting on the winners, Chantal Khoueiry, Chief Culture Officer, The Bicester Collection, said: “Empowering women social entrepreneurs is not just about recognising their achievements – it’s about creating a ripple effect of positive change that impacts entire communities.

“These women are leading the way towards a brighter future for us all.”  

Open to women of any age with an inspiring not-for-profit business idea, or a business where  their for-profit goals generate a positive return to society; the Unlock Her Future Prize identifies ventures that will drive sustainable positive social, cultural and environmental  impact for generations to come, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The inaugural edition of the prize celebrated the women of the Middle East and North Africa. In 2024, it will travel around the world to celebrate women from another geographical region.  

Find out more at

#DoGood #UnlockHerFuture 


7 influential women to watch in 2023

On International Women’s Day 2023, we at Smiley News want to celebrate the women who are paving the way to a better, more healthier and happier world.

Some women you may never have heard of, others you may know – but they’re all united by one mission: making a positive impact.

Whether it’s improving wellbeing, reducing inequalities around our world, or educating others about the injustices in our world, these women are all trying their best to make a difference.

This International Women’s Day, the theme is #EmbraceEquity.

“Imagine a gender equal world,” they say, “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

“IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid.”

So to celebrate women’s achievements, here are 7 women doing their bit, as recognised by Smiley News.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe

Nokuzola is an award-winning period activist working in South Africa. She has had many victories so far, including having tampon tax scrapped, and garnering huge financial support for ending gender inequality.

Powered by the driving force of personal experience, Nokuzola set out to create Team Free Sanitary Pads, a campaign group to tackle gender inequality and period poverty across the country.

Her prime focus for 2023 is expanding on the need for a menstrual rights law in South Africa and globally (Scotland with Monica Lennon & recently Spain).

Yasmin Benoit

Out of all the letters in LGBTQIA+, the ‘A’ is one of the ones which often gets forgotten. Still a novel concept to many outside the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘asexuality’ – a lack of sexual attraction to others – is perhaps dismissed the most in a world that revolves around sexual attraction.

Yasmin Benoit, 26, activist, heavy metal fan, lingerie model and cake hater, feels very differently. From a young age, she knew she didn’t feel romantic or sexual attraction in the same way her peers did – but it took until her mid-teen years to discover the term ‘asexual’ on the internet… and even longer to decide if it applied to her.

She partnered with Stonewall to launch the UK’s first-ever asexual rights initiative. The Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project works to research the problem of ACE discrimination in the UK, in the hopes of making this a better, and more accepting world.

Meg Zeenat Wamithi

Meg Zeenat Wamithi is CEO at Mindmapper UK and global mental health educator.

As a teenager, she struggled with her mental health and felt like she couldn’t get the support she needed. So rather than sit back, she decided to do something about it. “I had two options: either wait for someone else to do it… or do it myself,” she told Smiley News.

Using her strength, she now inspires people in schools and workplaces around the world through Mindmapper UK, which delivers talks and workshops focused on mental wellbeing and personal development.

Holly Bruce

Holly is a councillor for Glasgow City Council, one who is taking the UK by storm as she puts a feminist lens on one thing you thought it would never matter for; city planning.

The book Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World inspired Holly to act and, when the opportunity rose to join a leadership programme in Glasgow for young women under 30, she jumped at the chance.

“What I’ve started is more of a policy shift and a structural shift and will change how we decide how our cities are built or adapted,” explains Holly. “And the cultural change is a whole other conversation.”

Though the motion was unanimously backed by Glasgow City Council, movement will be slow to start; beginning with shifts in data collection and policies, before real physical, structural changes are able to be implemented.

Rhiane Fatinikun

After an accident several years ago where she was nearly run over, Rhiane Fatinikun was diagnosed with PTSD. 

“After that, I just wanted to find something new to do – for my wellbeing more than anything,” she tells Smiley News. Rhiane would have the idea to go hiking – and now, that idea has blossomed into Black Girls Hike.

Four years after their inception, Black Girls Hike has had success after success. From TED Talks to visits to Windsor Castle, to joining forces with the Duke of Edinburgh award, Black Girls Hike is opening up the countryside and proving that nature is there for everyone.

Kazna Aska

Involved in fundraising from an early age, integrating community values into her clothing line was natural for young designer Kazna Asker.

“I became very community-based when I moved to Sheffield,” explains Kazna, whose family is from Yemen, while she was born in Liverpool.

Kazna’s work combines streetwear with Islamic wear and Islamic modesty. Kazna’s work prioritises community and doing good, whether that is highlighting marginalised communities in her work and the models who wear it or raising funds and awareness for charities.

Inspired by the Dutch social enterprise Makers Unite, Kazna decided she wanted to use fashion and her designs to help people. It is important for Kazna that the money goes straight to the refugees who need it the most, and so she makes sure to donate to M.A.PIsra-UK and Saba Relief.

Sally Orange

As the only person who has run a marathon on every continent dressed as a piece of fruit, Sally Orange’s history is nothing to be sniffed at.

An avid mental health campaigner, military veteran and adventure athlete, Sally has recently taken on the ultimate challenge – The World Marathon Challenge. She ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 different continents.

For the World Marathon Challenge, she chose 7 charities; The Duke of Edinburghs Award (DofE), The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA)Marathon Kids UK, Armed Forces, Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST)Ripple Suicide PreventionWalking with the Wounded and Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

“I have raised money for over 50 charities in the past, so it was kind of quite hard to just pick one!” she said. “So I thought well, it’s 7-7-7; it fits well to do seven charities. That means that I can get the message further and wider.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.


Woman’s journey to reducing excessive waste

By Tom Barwell-Best

A budding project in southwest England aims to reduce hospitality waste by 40% in the Falmouth area, through training and bespoke bins.

The brains behind Waste Warrior Solutions is eco warrior, Tegan Allen, a Geography graduate, who focused on sustainability and the environment during her studies.

She has always been connected to nature through surfing – and seen the damage to the environment caused by plastic – but it was when she went sailing reality struck.

Tegan found plastic from all over the world in obscure places as far as the Caribbean, which prompted her to set up her TikTok channel “I thought, I’ve got to go back and change it before the climate clock runs out,” she says.

She did her dissertation on improving waste management systems in bars and restaurants, with a focus on changing human behaviour. “I realised there’s no training for staff in hospitality on environmental aspects, that are going to be beneficial to the environment in terms of waste management,” she tells Smiley News.

From her research, she found the “short-term brain focus” was one of the key areas that needed to be addressed in hospitality’s fast-paced environment. With the help of a friend, designer Chris Humphrey, she created a set of custom-built bins that will make it easier for staff to engage with recycling.

“If you don’t have a bin that’s close to you or properly separated, then you’re not going to recycle properly when you’re rushing especially at peak service hours,” she says.

Tegan is working with the help of a group of friends to launch the bins within the hospitality industry. She’s actively searching for collaborators who share her altruistic and environmentally-focused motives.

If you’d like to support her or her work or get involved, get in touch on social media: @wastewarriorsolutions and

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Speak Up! Music and The Mind

Speak Up! by Smiley Movement is a series of roundtable discussions where we tackle some of the big issues in our world – and focus on the solutions.

We gather experts and people who are striving to make a difference to give them an opportunity to speak up and share their story.

In our second episode, we gathered experts in the field of music and mental health to discuss music and the impact it has on our minds.

Hear from: Chas de Swiet, CEO, Sound Minds; Richard Clegg, CEO, Community Music; Priya Vithani, Senior Music Therapist, North London Music Therapy CIC; and Dr Simon Procter, Director of Music Services, Nordoff & Robbins.

Watch the full, 45-minute discussion:

Watch the two-minute highlights:


Inside an ‘Incredible Edible’ community garden

By Tom Barwell-Best

Just up from Penryn High Street in Cornwall – tucked off the main road – you’ll find St Gluvial Hall: a hub of community, creativity and sustainability.

In its garden, on Sunday mornings, volunteers get stuck into planting, weeding, and composting. The produce is free for people to take, trusting that the community wouldn’t take more than they need.

This is an Incredible Edible group – part of a nationwide network across the UK, which aims to create kinder, more confident and connected communities through the power of food.

John, garden manager and member of Incredible Edible in Cornwall, explains: “The produce of the garden can be for the community, and that doesn’t have to be the same individuals who do the work – the people that do the work do it to enjoy each others company and the joy of being outside.”

Around 10 years ago, the St Gluvial Church, who owns the hall in Cornwall, came to the conclusion that it no longer had the funds to keep it open, and were considering selling it off.

John says the community put their heads together to brainstorm ways they could make it more sustainable, reducing the financial costs. “One of those was to transform the outdoor space,” he says.

The Penryn community made use of the Incredible Edible model – which originally started in Todmodern, West Yorkshire – in an effort to save the hall.

Put simply, the model is to utilise disused land to grow your own food – and for the community aspect of growing together. It was a success for the Penryn community – and now, the optimum time for volunteers is in spring and summer, when most come down from university.

The community has done music events on the premises to raise money for Incredible Edible and the hall itself; the success leaving them with a residue of funds for buying compost and other gardening materials.

Another arm of creating a self-sustaining venue is The Olive Branch Cafe, who also make use of the fresh produce. Open to everyone, people can purchase affordable food and drink inside the community hall where the money raised goes towards the funding pot. 

In addition to these cost-saving and money raising initiatives, the hall is kitted out with solar panels with storage batteries, along with a rain collection system which provides all the water they need for gardening.

The group have plans to reinvent the “sensory garden”, as well as restore the accessible pathway that was installed by the council years ago, which has since deteriorated. There is plenty of work to be done, as well as the potential to collaborate for events – perhaps it’ll inspire you to do something similar in your community?

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land.


Every Saturday, Hackney teens run a community food shop

Young people, from charity RISE.365, were joined by a group of London actors to pack food parcels and run the community shop.

The event was organised by The Felix Project, London’s largest food redistribution charity, which saves surplus food from going to waste and distributes to organisations and schools across the capital.

Pippa Bennett-Warner was one of the actors who helped out, and has been supporting The Felix Project since lockdown.

“Like many I had a lot of time to think in 2020 and my overwhelming feeling was that I wanted to be able to give back,” she says. “Everyone at The Felix Project is so welcoming, friendly and have taught me a lot about why they are doing what they do. I love it and today has been incredible – to see the difference the food is making.”

The actors were amazed by how many people needed this service and impressed by how much of a positive impact Rise.365 is having on the young people and the community.

Every Saturday, the young people set up and run a community shop, which enables the community to purchase a wide range of fresh food and produce. The partnership initially made meals from surplus and then became a shop, they have now provided 100,000 bags of shopping. 

Eri Shuka, who helped alongside her husband Orli said: “These kids, it’s a Saturday, they are supposed to be out there doing whatever, instead they are here, they are helping people, building their community and showing love and compassion.

“It is so inspiring, for myself and my children, these are young adults who are supporting their community and most of all they are having fun, the atmosphere today, it is just fun, you really felt it.”

The food service was added during the pandemic and works in partnership with ‘Made Up Kitchen’, volunteers and RISE.365 Young Community Leaders.

Rise 365 was set up by Joyclen Baffong and aims to empower young people and young adults to reach their goals. It’s one of the many organisations across London that The Felix Project provides surplus food to.

If you can help, donate to support Rise.365, £40 helps them deliver enough food for 180 meals. To find out more about Rise.365, head to their website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Zero Hunger.


Wellbeing course for kids improves time at school

A seven-lesson course in positive psychology for children has been shown to give children sustained levels of improved wellbeing.

Tell me more.

An independent pilot study into the effectiveness of Teachappy’s award-winning Seeds of Happiness course shows that children taking part experience sustained levels of improved wellbeing and improved attitudes towards learning compared to controls.

The course was developed by Adrian Bethune, founder of Teachappy, who has been teaching happiness and wellbeing to primary school children and teachers since 2010.

The online course, which was awarded the Teach Primary 5 star award for Wellbeing in 2021, delivers a 7-lesson curriculum which introduces children and their teachers to the science of wellbeing.

The course aims to positively change their habits and behaviours inside and outside of school. Based on the ideas explored within Adrian Bethune’s book, Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom, the Seeds of Happiness breaks down the theory of positive psychology and provides tools and resources for teachers to deliver to their children in the classroom environment.

So what was the study?

The aim of it was two-fold: to investigate the effectiveness of the Seeds of Happiness course in improving the wellbeing of primary children, and to assess whether any impact was sustained past the completion of the course.

A primary school in the Midlands was selected to take part. The two-form entry school had never delivered The Seeds of Happiness curriculum before. The two adjacent Key Stage 2 classes were selected for the study with one participating in the curriculum (the intervention group) and the other not (the control group).

And what did it find?

The study found children’s participation resulted in improved wellbeing – and these levels were sustained over at least half the term following the end of the course.

But it also found that the course had a positive impact on emotions, as well as attitudes towards learning. These included enjoyment, excitement and happiness.

Teachappy is a limited company, but Adrian donates between 10-15% of his profits to Chance UK. “So,” he adds, “when you do the course, you’re improving the wellbeing of children but you’re also helping us to contribute to the charities we believe in.”

Find out more about Teachappy and how it supports children here. You can also learn more about Chance UK, the charity supporting disadvantaged children, and donate here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Quality Education and Good Health and Wellbeing.


Why you should seriously consider starting a Crowdfunder this year

You may or may not know by now that we’re supporting Crowdfunder UK with their 2023 Startups programme: an opportunity to get your business idea off the ground – with a bit of help.

Startups have the unique opportunity, in our modern world, to think about how they can benefit both people and the planet through the way they operate. So if you have an idea for a purposeful project, and want to get it off the ground, it seems now’s your chance

The short of it is: joining the programme not only gives you the chance of winning £1,000 to help you kickstart your idea, but it also gives you access to a series of free business masterclasses with some expert speakers.

After all, the best advice you can get from people when crowdfunding for an idea is support from those who have been there, done that.

Tell me more about the masterclasses.

Absolutely! Firstly, they’re totally free.

Secondly, they’re speedy yet packed full of useful information. The one-hour online sessions will cover off:

25 January, 11am: How to actually crowdfund

Heard about it, but not quite sure where to start? The session goes through how to best set up your project, and focus on shaping your page the right way to potentially lead to extra funding. 

1 February, 11am: How to market your start-up

So you’ve set it up, but now to get the buzz going. Learn more from marketing and PR experts on how to promote your project for maximum success.  

8 February, 11am: Been there, done it

Of course, you’re not alone! There are tons of success stories at Crowdfunder to inspire you to see into your future. Hear from two of them (and ask them any questions you want!). 

15 February: 11am: Making the leap

Do you have dreams of turning your start-up into your business, and leaving your job altogether? Hear from the experts on how best to navigate that. 

What are the other benefits to joining?

You can start a Crowdfunder at any time of the year, but by kickstarting 2023 with it, you’ll not only get the benefits of the free masterclasses to help you on your way – but also potentially a little bit more cash. 

So here are three more reasons to join up as soon as possible…

PRIZES: If you register for the startup campaign, you’ll be in with a chance of winning one of three £1,000 giveaway prizes. That could be a huge amount towards your goal. 

NO FEES: Yep, that’s true, if you sign-up before the end of Feb and get your project live, there are 0% platform fees for joining. 

SUPPORT: Sometimes when an idea in your head just won’t go away, it’s helpful to get feedback and advice from others. Not only will the masterclasses give you advice, they also give you the opportunity to ask questions, get feedback, and develop your idea. There’s also a wealth of support on the Crowdfunder page, such as advice on how to tell your story, as well as setting your target. 

What are you waiting for?



This mental health festival reaches millions of young people

The UK’s mental health festival for schools is back for another year – aiming to reduce stigma and open up conversations around young people’s minds and wellbeing.

Through the festival – called Now and Beyond – the founding charity, Beyond, has reached more than one million young people, educators and parents over the past three years.

Beyond is a youth mental health charity that aims to improve young people’s mental health in the UK by enabling access to interventions in and out of formal education.

And it’s needed. NHS services are grossly oversubscribed, suicide rates amongst 15-19 year olds are the highest they’ve been in 30 years, and around 200 young people die by suicide every year in the UK.

Led by activist and founder Jonny Benjamin MBE and CEO Louisa Rose, the charity is driven by a youth board determined to drive change among young people.

So, tell me more about the festival.

The festival takes place online on 8 February. You can book workshops ahead of time, and also view the live event schedule.

A wide range of workshops will be available, as well as personal stories from young people with lived experience, and lesson plans for 4-18 year olds, covering everything from mental health first aid to mindfulness, eating disorders, anti-racism, mental health stigma and screen time.

Rapper and mental health activist Shocka is taking part and recording a new music video of his song ‘Stigma’ to raise awareness of men’s mental health. He’ll also be interviewed by Beyond youth board member Jeremy Lyons in an online broadcast.

“It’s extremely important to eradicate shame and create more safe spaces between one and other,” he said. “Another goal of mine is to be the person that I wish I had when I was young. Knowing that thousands of young people, teachers, parents and carers will see this during Now and Beyond helps me achieve that.” 

Louisa Rose, founder of the festival, said: “The devastating increase in suicide rates is evidence that children and young people’s mental health services are needed now more than ever.

“If children and young people have access to the right services at the earliest possible opportunity, lives will be saved.

“While we are unable to directly increase the provision of services through Beyond, what we can do is share learnings, expertise and toolkits to broad audiences to empower teachers, parents, carers, children and young people to better understand and navigate mental health issues, learn about self-care and know when and how to take action.”

To find out more or to register as a school visit

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


It’s time to focus on the positives of humanity

While many may focus their New Year’s resolutions on getting back to the gym, or committing to stop those Friday night takeaways, there’s another resolution you could commit to that’ll help others.

How about volunteering?

This year, Reach Volunteering is calling on voluntary groups and volunteers to #ChangeTheStory about humanity in a national campaign. It aims to challenge the perception that people are primarily driven by ‘selfish’ values such as power, wealth and status. 

The #ChangeTheStory campaign focuses on the compassionate values that motivate people to volunteer. 

Janet Thorne, CEO of Reach, said: “The simple truth is that most of us care deeply about one another and the world around us. At Reach, we see thousands of volunteers regularly give their time and their skills, to help others.

“And yet every day, we receive messages from our workplaces, from advertising and politics, and popular culture that people are primarily driven by ‘selfish’ values such as power, wealth and status”. 

“The story we tell ourselves about what it means to be human is important. It’s time to #ChangeTheStory. Together, we will change the world.” 

The campaign is based on research by the Common Cause Foundation, that found 74% of people in the UK place greater importance on values like kindness, helpfulness and equality than values like wealth, achievement and ambition.

However, most of us (77%) tend to underestimate others, assuming that people are more likely to place more importance on self-interested values than on values of justice and care.

This misperception (also known as the ‘perception gap’) holds people back from playing their part in addressing society’s issues like inequality and the climate crisis.

As part of the campaign, volunteers are being encouraged to help create a more accurate picture of humanity and the values that the majority of us hold to be the most important.

It’s being run in partnership with Action for Trustee Racial Diversity UK, Association of Chairs, Charity Retail Association, Charterpath, Common Cause Foundation, Getting On Board, Inspiring Scotland, The Jewish Volunteering Network, SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations), Volunteering Matters and The Commemoration Hall Huntingdon.

The campaign film and information on how to get involved can be found on the #ChangeTheStory campaign webpage on the Reach website:

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.