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Marianne Leloup Syed

Activist & Lawyer

I grew up in a large family, with six siblings in a context where community life was very much emphasized and valued. I always wanted to contribute to society trying to reconcile pro bono work and volunteering during my studies and subsequent career as a business lawyer. One transformative moment came when volunteering for the Salvation Army in Paris, participating in nightly soup kitchens for the homeless and subsequently by providing legal advice to people in need at one of the Salvation Army centres. I realized that society makes us believe that marginalised people are different from us, which provides a justification for not treating them the way we should treat others. Later on, at the first opportunity to visit a refugee camp, I went with my 2 years old son and watched him playing football with the other kids. It was just the way it should be: tiny humans playing together, regardless their skin colour, culture, economic situation or religion…. This experience as well as the increasing urgency to act in face of the increasing number of refugees arriving at our shores provided the motivation to start The Odyssey Project, which promotes positive initiatives of migrants in Europe and in the Middle-East. After four years in London, being the Executive Director of Positive Planet UK, a charity that helps people empower themselves through entrepreneurship projects around the world, I recently moved back to Paris where I am launching my own law firm, specialised in asylum law. I also volunteer for charities that support refugees. I have also been lecturing at the Sorbonne University for 7 years and often speak in public on the refugee cause.