Wadi Ben-Hirki

Nigeria

Wadi  Ben-Hirki

Wadi Ben-Hirki is an MA student in International Education and Development at the University of Sussex. A victim of abuse in childhood and growing up in an unstable region affected by insurgency and terrorism in Northern Nigeria, Wadi overcame these challenges as well as physical and mental health problems in primary and secondary school to excel academically, become a well-known public speaker and consultant, and lead a non-profit organisation, the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation, that has a positive impact on the lives of many people around the world.

The Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation (WBHF) aims to reignite the hopes of hurting women and children through humanitarian action and advocacy towards access to quality education, equality and justice, empowerment, equity and sustainable partnerships for welfare. Since inception, its projects Street to School, Girls Not Wives, Love in the Midst of War and SHEROES, have all made a measurable and long-term impact. The “Street to School” project, for example, organises teacher training programmes, implements volunteer-based teaching in internally-displaced people’s camps and communities, and provides educational materials to children who are less-privileged, marginalised, and living with disability and/or facing other difficulties, to support better learning. The WBHF currently has over 180 volunteers and ambassadors from over 25 countries around the world.

In addition, Wadi has worked on numerous projects, interventions and policies focused on inclusive, equitable and quality education with the Forum for African Women Educationalists, Plan International Nigeria, ONE Campaign, United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, Y(outh)20, and G(irls)20 among others. Wadi also finds time to publish informative and educational articles and videos, as well as host webinars and online and offline sessions for her peers all over the world.

Wadi is passionate about promoting global cooperation, participating in the Ashoka Changemakers Xchange program where she met with youth leaders from different countries in West Africa who were involved in advocacy, business and social entrepreneurship. She also attended the Y20 Summit in Argentina as a special guest on education and skills for the 21st century and also attended the World Youth Forum in Egypt. She also participated in the 2018 United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Generation Change Fellowship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Wadi was a youth advisory board member of the African Leadership Institute (AFLI), and during her tenure she worked with other board members and the AFLI team to launch “Project Pakati,” meaning “youths at the center.” Since the creation of the project and online platform, thousands of young people have connected with one another, accessed opportunities and worked together to ensure young people in Africa are not left behind but are instead empowered.

She was recently named one of Africa’s Top 100 Most Influential Young People and in 2021, Wadi was one of the few young women selected to feature in the “Women of Wonder” documentary for Expo Dubai 2020’s Women Pavilion in collaboration with Cartier. The documentary was directed by Nadine Labaki, an award-winning Lebanese actress, director and activist.