Recognized in Forbes JAPAN’s 30 under 30 list in the Social Entrepreneur category

Tokyo, 22nd August 2018 – Sayaka Watanabe, founder of NPO WELgee, has been named in the social entrepreneur category of Forbes 30 under 30 list of leaders shaping the next generation. She was awarded for her outstanding efforts to change the lives of refugees in Japan, a country which has one of the lowest refugee recognition rates among OECD member countries.

Upon receiving the recognition, Sayaka commented, “I couldn’t tell my left from my right when I started WELgee, but these two years of efforts have been characterized by people from various fields who have gotten involved. I would be delighted if this article was a trigger for the people reading to reach out.”

▲Photo credit: Yuka Uesawa

Forbes 30 under 30 recognizes 30 innovators every year who are shaping the next generation. This is the first time Forbes Japan has launched a 30 under 30 list, which nominates 30 candidates across five categories; Art, Entertainment and Sport, Business, Social Entrepreneur, and Healthcare and Science. Sayaka Watanabe was recognized in the Social Entrepreneur category.

This nomination came from a recommendation from the CEO and co-founder of NPO Cross Fields, Daichi Konuma.

Mr. Konuma commented, “I am expecting more great things from Sayaka, as I have yet so meet someone with as much passion in the field of international cooperation. Working to solve challenges faced by society, I can’t wait to see what she does next in this field.”

Going forward, WELgee will be focusing on matching employment opportunities which utilize the unique and specialist skills of each refugee. By discovering the skills and aspirations of individual refugee, this project aims to create a framework for the refugees to create new value in Japanese society by increasing opportunities, instead of simply waiting for refugee recognition, through matching companies with human resources who in turn be active in society.


Sayaka Watanabe’s background

Sayaka acquired a masters from the Department of Advanced Social and International Studies within The University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Department. Her parents also work at an NPO, and in the third year of university, Sayaka decided lived and worked in Bangladesh for a year. She set up an educational NGO with colleagues Chittagong Hill, which is an area where local indigenous people have faced enormous persecution. Following this, Sayaka took part in a peace building project during an internship with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). After returning to Japan, Sayaka entered graduate school, and upon meeting young refugees and deciding something needed to be done to help change their standing in society, established the voluntary organization WELgee. The company became incorporated in February 2018, and Sayaka was awarded the “2018 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award created by INCO, for her work to tackle a major social and environmental issue.


About WELgee

Company outline

Name: NPO WELgee

Address: Ebisu Garden Place Tower 27th floor, Ebisu 4-20-3, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 150-6027


Contact information:

Phone: 080-3584-1991