ARISE: Social and entrepreneurial capacities of migrant women

Practice Aim

To promote the social and entrepreneurial capacities of migrant women through development and exploitation of food-related knowledge and skills that provide possibilities for income-generating activities.

Target Groups

Migrant or refugee women living in Palermo, from Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria and Chile.


  • Coordinator: CESIE (Italy);
  • Four Elements (Greece);
  • Verein Niedersächsischer Bildungsinitiativen e.V. (Germany);
  • Elan Interculturel (France);
  • Verein Multikulturell (Austria);
  • Folkuniversitetet, Stiftelsen kursverksamheten vid Uppsala Universitet(Sweden).

[DG Home Affairs – Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), Priority 1: foster integration of migrant women]


The aim of the ARISE project is to promote the social and entrepreneurial capacities of migrant women. The project fostered the development and implementation of economically sustainable food-related innovative business ideas in order to promote mutual learning between migrant women and welcoming communities.

Target: Vulnerable Group (VG) and type of host community

The course participants were migrant or refugee women living in Palermo, coming from Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria and Chile. The common thread that unites them is the desire and the will to start a business in Palermo. Most of them would like to open a restaurant, to discover the recipes and flavours of their country of origin, but also to experiment new blends between their cuisine and the local one, or to open a small shop of sweets, handicrafts, local products.

Application setting: context

Migrant women make up an important group among the EU’s potential business founders. In fact, they already run a considerable number of start-ups. However, there are often legal, cultural, and linguistic obstacles to their entrepreneurial spirit, and many companies fail at a very early stage. Female migrants are sometimes faced with additional challenges such as household work and raising children.
Capitalizing on personal skills and contributing to job creation, entrepreneurship training can help migrants and refugees, and – in particular – women who face wider discrimination in access to education and to the labour market.
The objective of the ARISE project is to promote social skills and help migrant women develop and exploit their knowledge and skills related mainly to the food sector in order to start up an enterprise.
The project promotes the development and the implementation of business ideas and economically sustainable innovations linked to the to the food sector able to promote the cultural exchange between migrant women and the welcoming community.


  • To foster networking, knowledge, experience-sharing among social workers, trainers, intercultural mediators and key stakeholders to strengthen resources supporting integration of migrant women and their access to work and development of entrepreneurial initiatives
  • To promote the social and entrepreneurial capacities of migrant women through development and exploitation of food-related knowledge and skills that provide possibilities for income-generating activities
  • To stimulate development and implementation of economically sustainable food-related innovative business ideas as a vehicle to promote mutual learning between the culture of migrant women and the one of the welcoming communities
  • To foster intercultural dialogue and a culture of welcoming communities in partners’ countries to reduce social exclusion of migrants and contribute to their better integration


  • Researching of quantitative and qualitative data collection on migrant women’s social, economic, learning needs, and analysis of business climate and preconditions for food-related business establishment
  • Offering international Training Course for 18 social workers/trainers/intercultural mediators
  • Producing a toolkit for organizations promoting economically sustainable food-related innovative business ideas and cultural initiatives, the “Appetite for Enterprise” Toolkit
  • Implementing 20 Local Workshops to 12-15 migrant women on (I) development of personal and soft skills; (II) entrepreneurial education, entrepreneurial culture, entrepreneurial civil education; (III) visits to migrant-led enterprises and meetings with successful migrant entrepreneurs.

Together with the trainer, the women undertook a path of self-knowledge and strengthening of certain skills that involved several stages:

  • analysis and sharing of their fears, weaknesses and strengths;
  • deepening on verbal communication skills, body language, active listening, taking into account the importance that cultural differences play when dealing with people from countries other than our own;
  • explanation of group dynamics in the world of work, effective team management, conflict resolution and recognition in oneself and others of leadership skills;
  • work on negotiation skills and strategies.

The process of organic and participatory learning actively women, who shared and enriched the debate with their past experiences, opinions and suggestions. The aim of this initial training phase was to provide a solid foundation on which to develop the technical skills needed to set up a business.
The next ten meetings were conducted by a business coach who provided all the information needed to create a business model canvas, a sustainable business plan and the tools to carry out feasibility studies before entering Palermo business landscape.


  • State of the Art Report composed of (i) Assessment of migrant women’s social, economic, learning needs, (ii) Analysis of business climate for food-related business establishment for migrant women – challenges and opportunities
  • Focus Groups, local Workshops and International Training Courses
  • Informal Network of Migrant Organisations, social workers, trainers, intercultural mediators, social partners and stakeholders, and migrant entrepreneurs
  • Local Enterprise Event to showcase business concepts to local audiences and stakeholders


  • Thanks to the rich interchange of experiences and knowledge between the realities involved, these meetings have highlighted a series of social, economic and learning needs of migrant women in the local context when embarking an entrepreneurial initiative in general or participating to the ARISE project in particular.
  • For some of the women, the workshops were a stepping stone to careers as freelancers or business owners. However, not all of the participants chose this path. Throughout the project, some discovered that they did not see themselves as entrepreneurs—a meaningful insight in itself. Therefore, the training not only provided the migrant women with extremely useful knowledge, but also clarified their own future professional steps.


The lack of connection with the local corporate culture, access to limited to corporate networks and the low understanding of the support schemes for the development of enterprises are some of the barriers to the development, promotion and dissemination of entrepreneurship among migrant women.
Italy focused on the reported difficulties faced by migrant women in accessing the Italian labour market when providing childcare. It was also reported that in Sicily there is surely a problem of diffused discrimination but the overall national and regional context is also characterized by widespread economic depression and limited employment opportunities: the 40% of Italian citizens aged 16-30 is NEETs; there are very few opportunities for everyone and the situation is considerably worse for the migrants. As for migrant integration policies, it seems that the first reception phases work fairly well (rescue, identification, first settlement and assistance) nonetheless, once these phases are completed and the migrant is ready to be integrated in the society, there is no structured and coordinated policy to facilitate that, and this lack of assistance is mainly responsible for the confinement of migrants into informal jobs with dire working conditions. On the top of this, they become easy targets for criminal organizations which recruit them for small-scale illegal activities (drugs smuggling, robberies etc.).

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

Finding of social, economic and learning needs of migrant women in the local context when embarking an entrepreneurial initiative:

  • As migrants, they face with cultural barriers and difficulties to interact with the bureaucracy, the market, and the local authorities, both under a theoretical – they have a different perception of what entrepreneurship entails – and practical point of view – as they ignore the procedure necessary to set up an entrepreneurial initiative, and they face consistent language barriers. As women, they face obstacles within their family as they are largely dependent on their husbands. Participants to the focus groups underlined the need to “ask permission” to their husbands sometimes even just to talk to them. Moreover, as women, they are in charge of children care in the family and have difficulties in combining this aspect of their lives and work. Although they have the support of their respective communities – especially in childcare – it is important to keep in mind such aspects when trying to involve them in activities. Some participants suggested devising different levels of engagement, while others came up with solutions which would allow them to work in groups, such as shared kitchens (“co-cooking”) they can use for caterings or services of the like.
  • Both focus groups have underlined how identifying learning needs requires a thorough analysis in order to understand what existing competences and skills can be used in order to start an entrepreneurial venture. In fact, in many cases migrant women are unaware of the value of the skills they possess, as they do not regard them as marketable, e.g. cooking, braiding hair, sewing, etc. “Women, especially young ones, have so much positive energy that needs to be channelled!”. Once identified the skills they already possess, they can experiment with new ones, depending on their entrepreneurial idea.

CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

  • Participation of key stakeholders of the territory, involving representatives from associations and organizations committed to first and second reception procedure, to the rescue and reintegration in society of trafficked women, to the inclusion of migrants in the social fabric of the city of Palermo;
  • Follow up: establishment of a community social enterprise:

Name of the entrepreneurial idea / start-up:


Description of the activities of the enterprise:

Afrita will be an enterprise promoting the African culture and the relationship between Africa and Italy. It will be made by three departments: the Food Unit will include a restaurant and a food market selling African products, the Tourism Unit will operate both in incoming (Africans coming to visit Italy) and outcoming tourism (for assisting Italian tourists to travel through Africa), the Education Unit will promote African culture through seminars/laboratories/other cultural activities addressed to schools, young people and, generally speaking, citizens.

Migrant woman involved:

The enterprise will be founded by 9 women of different nationalities: Chile, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

Year and length (duration)

01/02/2017 – 31/01/2019

Comments (additional info, remarks)