FeaturedHN Q&A

Meet Mirabelle Morah & Wadi Ben-Hirki; Two Young Women Paving the Path and Shaping the Future.

Mirabelle Morah and Wadi Ben-Hirki are two young Nigerian women who reside in different parts of the country(Nigeria), but connect through a shared interest – to live a life of IMPACT. Mirabelle and Wadi received the Her Network Woman of the Future Award in 2017 and 2018 respectively and have been relentless in using their voices and platforms to shape a better world.

Fascinated by the power of storytelling and digital media, Mirabelle is the Editorial and Communications Head of BlankPaperz Media, a platform she founded to amplify the voices and stories of young Africans — especially writers — who are working towards social good. She’s grown BlankPaperz with over 120 online contributors across Africa and other continents; she has held in-person training and collaborated with other organizations. Mirabelle is also a Nigerian representative to a Chatham House/Robert Bosch project to foster key policy dialogue between African and European youths. She’s been recognized by the U.S Department of State and has also been named an Ashoka Africa Youth Champion, Obama Young African Leader (YALI), 2018 Global Teen Leader, and a British Council Study UK Ambassador. She recently worked with the communications team of Salzburg Global Seminar, an international organization challenging the present and future leaders to shape a better world.

Wadi Ben-Hirki is a development worker, writer, and public speaker. She is the Lead volunteer of Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Covenant University. She has been trained by the Satyagraha Institute on non-violence, peacebuilding and conflict resolution and the Youth Organizing School on policy advocacy & civic engagement. She is a strong believer in equity and justice. Her principles are founded on the belief that everyone deserves a fighting chance because we are humans first before belonging to any other group. Wadi is convinced that proper education encompasses every other thing needed to make the world better because it will bring about enlightenment, empowerment, and progress. Wadi also believes one does not have to be in a position of power to be a change agent and we all play vital roles in improving our world and sustaining it for generations to come.

Wadi is an Ashoka change-maker and served as a ONE champion for two years. In 2017, she was the focal point for Canada High Commission’s #SheCANLead campaign in Nigeria. In 2016, she participated in the Africa Union’s Regional Consultation on Human Rights with a major focus on Women’s Rights. She was a youth delegate at the Global Partnership for Education Financing Conference 2018 and served as a Special Guest on education & skills for the 21st century at the Y20 Summit 2018. She also participated in the 2018 United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Generation Change Fellowship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

She currently sits on the African Leadership Institute Youth Advisory Board and serves as a Country Representative for the Chatham House Common Futures Conversations. Wadi is a 2019 Diana Award Holder and was one of the recipients of the World Youth Forum Award 2018 which was presented by H.E President AbdelFattah El-Sisi (President of Egypt).

We caught up with both of them for our October Q&A Session, read and be inspired.

MIRABELLE MORAH

Mirabelle Morah

“Find what’s important and let God lead.” – Mirabelle Morah

Share your thoughts on the importance of education for the girl child and in what ways you believe access to quality education for every girl can be achieved.

Many people who take female education for granted have little understanding of how many girls in Nigeria, in refugee camps and many places around the world long to go to school and experience a formal educational system. It’s clear that educated females lead to healthier lifestyles, are less likely to get into child marriages and earn better income. Not only does education stimulate a girl’s mind, but it also builds in her confidence. She’s allowed to dream of ideas she wants to work on, the places she wants to go, and the things she wants to change. I understand that there are barriers such as violence and war, early marriage, poverty and culture which prevent girls from getting into school. That being said, I have a deep respect for organizations and individuals who go all out to sponsor young girls to school as well as sensitize communities on the importance of educating girls. When male heads are also targeted and brought into the conversation in such communities, it helps to hasten girls’ access to education in the community especially where everyone, men and women alike, believe that both boys and girls should have access to quality education.

Through your work with BlankPaperz, what are the top solutions you have provided to your Network/Community? What is BlankPaperz doing differently from similar platforms?

In 2017, I interviewed a Ghanaian friend who wanted to help autistic kids and was going to use her little income as a young graduate to do so. I wrote about her and published her story on BlankPaperz website. Shortly afterward, two people from the US contacted me saying they wanted to reach out to her and donate some books. I felt so excited and thought yes! This is the life! These are the connections and opportunities I want to create for people through their stories. I remember calling her over the phone from Nigeria—she was in Ghana—and burning my airtime to inform her of the good news. I probably felt more excited than the actual girl. 

When I started BlankPaperz in 2016 I thought I just wanted to help my friends and my friends’ friends publish their fictional stories and literary pieces on BlankPaperz.com, because I wanted people to also read what they had written. I probably had no idea what hidden passions I was unlocking within myself, how much I was going to learn and how much I was going to give. The idea behind BlankPaperz grew and I switched to publishing articles and stories from young writers who were writing about social issues. I would interview and write feature stories on people also working on social projects, share their stories with as many people as possible and leave links to their contact details so, many people could reach out to them if they wanted to collaborate with them. 

If you want people to fight a war you build soldiers right? And if you’d like more people engaged in social good you train more people right? I did organize meetups and workshops where I would teach people not just about the power of storytelling, writing, media etc. but also the importance of leadership. Because I don’t think it’s enough to just be an awesome storyteller (written stories or moving pictures), I think it’s important to have character and deeper moral values too.

International Day of the Girl 2019 is Marking 25 years of progress for girls. Do you think we have made progress? Highlight one area you feel still needs a lot of work on in terms of “Making Progress”

“Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless—in short, more dramatic—than it really is,” said Hans Rosling in his book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Rosling further explains that all around the world, there are only a few countries—exceptional places like Afghanistan or South Sudan—where fewer than 20 percent of girls finish primary school, and at most 2 percent of the world’s girls live in such countries. Looking at Nigeria, 1960 to 2019, the number of females enrolled into schools is much higher. But an area that still needs a lot of work is that females, both young and old don’t feel safe. Safety in school, safety on the road, safety in career advancement, safety in inheritance. General safety. Girls are still not safe on many levels and there’s still a lot of work to do.

Do you have any mentor(s)? If yes, please share the role they’ve played so far in helping you shape the future you desire.

Ah! Mentors, mentors, mentors! I’ve had mentors. People whom I directly addressed as my mentors and people whom I never directly addressed as mentors but nonetheless, they played the role. Sure, I’ve had them and it’s been a blessing. 

First of all, it was nice watching and examining their lives because it gave me some ideals and standards to look up to while also forming mine. They acted as my sounding boards. I test-ran my ideas with them, listened to stories of their own experiences, drew strength and energy from their own courage and expertise, opened up about my fears and got encouraged by them. They helped me see what I couldn’t, and I’m grateful to them because they helped build confidence in me. Something some of my mentors seemed to have in common was that they wanted me to be a reflection of my true self and not a shadow of them, and that was beautiful.

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned? 

That there are things, people, events, situations I feel and concoct in my mind, holding them as important, but they really are not. Find what’s important and let God lead.

Any virtual role model you hope to meet in person soon?

Sure, for now I’m looking forward to meeting God someday and have Him pat me on my back and say well done. I look forward to meeting myself at age 35-40 too. Chimamanda Adichie is on my list of people to meet too. And do you want to know who else is on my list of people to meet in person? Virtually everybody, every young, middle-age or old person working towards positively changing or growing something around them, big or small. I look forward to meeting them, validating their stories and strategizing ways forward with them.

As the recipient of the “Woman of the Future” award in 2018, share one sentence of advice to the incoming recipient of the Her Network Woman of the Future 2019.

Get to know Nkem Onwudiwe better, don’t be too quiet during the event stand up and get to know people, think of everyone too as a winner and remember, you can’t rest on anything, you still have ‘plenty’ work ahead of you.

WADI BEN-HIRKI

Wadi Ben- Hirki

“I’ve learned that life doesn’t always give us what we deserve or desire but what we demand.” – Wadi Ben-Hirki

Share your thoughts on the importance of education for the girl child and in what ways you believe access to quality education for every girl can be achieved.

Education is important for the girl child because it ensures that she can think critically and her intellect/ mind-set is broadened hence, she can make better decisions because she is well-informed. She can engage in conversations, make good suggestions and communicate better in her society and beyond. Education is the light that shows the way and eliminates ignorance and fear. It helps in self-actualization/ realization and self-improvement. It provides financial security for better career and professional choices and to acquire knowledge and skills for personal and community advancement. It also decreases maternal mortality because mothers (girls and women) will have better knowledge about health care practices.

It improves the economy of the society through various means such as environmental sustainability, lowers illiteracy rate which also leads to a decrease in poverty and unemployment rates. Quality education leads to empowerment which will improve a girl’s productivity and relevance in her family and in the society at large.

As regards ways in which access to quality education for every girl can be achieved, I believe quality education can be achieved through;

  • Passage of bills into law and ensuring they are adhered to
  • Policy implementation to encourage girls to have access to education
  • Gender responsiveness in education sector planning
  • Sensitization of parents, guardians and the girls themselves
  • Ensuring 12 years free, inclusive and quality education for the girl child
  • Provision of safe, flexible and enabling environments for girls to learn

An educated girl is empowered, full of great potentials, strength, courage, and knowledge which she passes down to her children and future generations. An educated girl is empowered, full of great potentials, strength, courage, and knowledge which she passes down to her children and future generations. We all play vital roles in transforming our society by educating every child; boy and girl. We are the ones we are waiting for!

Through your work in advocacy, what are the top solutions you have provided your Network/Community?

Some of the top solutions provided through my work are sensitizing and educating people in grass root communities about the importance of girl-child education. Through Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation’s scholarship scheme, we have given few girls access to free and quality education.

We’ve also Raised Funds for Children, Organized outreach programs like book, clothes and shoe banks and provided many children with stationery, leveraged on social media platforms to get others on board and published useful articles on my blog: https://wadibenhirki.com/blog/

International Day of the Girl 2019 is Marking 25 years of progress for girls. Do you think we have made progress? Highlight one area you feel still needs a lot of work on in terms of “Making Progress”

Yes, we have made a lot of progress! I believe more girls are having equal access to opportunities and choices as their male counterparts

Wadi Ben-Hirki

Do you have any mentor(s)? If yes, please share the role they’ve played so far in helping you shape the future you desire.
I currently don’t have any mentor(s) but I have a few women I directly and closely learn from (worth ethics, work-life balance, personal development, career choice, and pursuit, etc). I will definitely have mentors as time goes on. I am just taking my time to be sure I make the right decision

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned? 

I’ve learned that life doesn’t always give us what we deserve or desire but what we demand.

Any virtual role model you hope to meet in person soon?

YES! Oprah Winfrey (We were both born on the 29th of January 😀 )

As the recipient of the “Woman of the Future” award in 2017, share one sentence of advice to the incoming recipient of the Her Network Woman of the Future 2019.

My advice to the incoming recipient is, it isn’t just an award; it is a prophecy/ strong statement and it carries a lot of weight so please, treat it as such.

One thought on “Meet Mirabelle Morah & Wadi Ben-Hirki; Two Young Women Paving the Path and Shaping the Future.

  1. I believe every one is important and we all have what it takes to make the world a better place . I feel happy to see young african children bringing positive change to the world.

    Their are greatness in every African child, and their is no limitation in the abilities of an African child. Long live Africa.

    I celebrate as many Nigerian children making best use of their potentials towards promoting the ever green great Africa we want

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