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Parliament Group

Maria Leyva

Personal Summary

Maria is the creator and Managing Director of New Citizens Voice; she is an innovative social entrepreneur who believes that people’s voices matter and that every human being should have the confidence to have their say in public arenas.

Maria was born in Peru, has travelled widely and now lives in the UK. With over 20 years’ experience developing projects and working in radio journalism, such as the BBC World Service. She has an appreciation of how cultural differences affect people’s lives, understands the importance of effective communication and can connect with people from all walks of life. She is perfectly placed to understand and guide others experiencing British life for the first time.

Research indicates migrants do not become actively involved in mainstream UK society because they don’t believe their role matters or that their involvement will have an impact. As a result, they can find it difficult to integrate into mainstream communities leaving them feeling isolated.

“To address this problem, I created new Citizens Voice (NCV) to elevate the status and visibility of immigrants and enable them to be equal players in the UK's socioeconomic, political, educational and cultural development. This is achievable by partnering with individuals, organisations and agencies that value personal development, citizenship and education and want to empower marginalised migrants who struggle to voice their concerns and opinions confidently to participate in active citizenship”
Maria L Portilla.


MA in Journalism, University of London (2019)
Dissertation: Covered the dynamics of migrants living in the UK and how policy can be adapted to engage them.

BA in Global Politics and International Relations, University of London (2015)
Conducted four years of research into the situation faced by immigrants living in the UK

“My Master’s research and dissertation explored how to integrate migrants from hard-to-reach communities and prevent their marginalisation. I recognise the difficulties they face because many of these people are not involved with mainstream society particularly as Britain has a very progressive, forward thinking political system.

The project also opened my mind to a new area of society and the problems they face. I know what it is to be resident in a foreign land. However, although I share similar experiences, such as the issue of language and etiquette, many of the migrants I interviewed for the project come from countries where Governments are to be feared, not actively engaged with, and where being politically active is an alien concept.

By talking to them, I realised that learning to engage with this group is not an option but a necessity because they need to be reminded of their value in order for them to become hopeful, independent and dignified human beings capable of dreaming once again.

The skills and knowledge base I have built during this Master’s degree has made me more committed than ever to finding new ways of offering support, creating new platforms, building links with key people in government, the world of business and working in partnership with the aim of engaging and reminding these migrants of their value so then they can transform their attitudes and become active citizens in the UK.”
Maria L Portilla.


Maria Leyva

Maria Leyva

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