Sheroes Empowered to Empower
Wadi Ben-Hirki: "Going forward, I desire to live in a world where we can all lead fulfilling lives"
Women empowerment has been at the core of the Foundations work in sub-Saharan Africa for a number of years now. There are issues that existed before the pandemic that will most likely exist post the pandemic. What then can be done now to drive a new narrative along with the new normal to ensure that the African agenda for women empowerment and gender equality doesn’t fall away as the world re-looks into the future? We have collaborated with COGNOS International, a German private education company that operates universities and educational projects worldwide. COGNOS is running female empowerment programmes in several countries in Africa together with FNF Africa.
Wadi Ben-Hirki is a 24-year-old development worker, writer and public speaker from Nigeria. She recently participated in the training and networking session on Decision Making & Personal Performance Female Empowerment Programme in June 2021 organised by COGNOS International and FNF Africa. "I was raised in Northern Nigeria and growing up, being a woman came with serious consequences. I saw many people suffer from abuse, gender-based violence, marginalisation and many other forms of gender inequality. Before our teenage years, some of my friends and classmates were married off due to extreme poverty and cultural practices. The insurgency and terrorist attacks also directly affected my family and me. We lost many relatives and some of our property, thereby limiting our sources of livelihood. Illiteracy was, and still is, a major issue in my country, Nigeria."
Although Wadi encountered several difficulties as a child, as a teenager and even now as an adult, one thing she says she is grateful for is the fact that her parents sacrificed a lot and did all they could to ensure that her and her siblings had access to the best education possible. "This enabled me to be exposed, informed, enlightened and open to learning. My curiosity and passion for education led me to obtain a scholarship to attend one of the best high schools in Nigeria," she says.
Wadi highlights that her educational journey is an outstanding one, especially because she has been privileged to learn in arguably some of the best institutions in her country. However, she unfortunately encountered some personal challenges and these led to her not performing excellently in school – secondary school and university. "This reality led me to seeing and realising that the educational sector is flawed in so many ways. This is not peculiar to my country or continent alone, but the world at large."
Many years later, Wadi remains very passionate about education because she believe it encompasses everything needed to ensure an equal and sustainable world that leaves no one behind. "This strong belief led me to founding the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation six years ago - at the age of 18, to give every child and woman a fighting chance at life through our projects and campaigns: Street2School, GirlsNotWives, LITMOW (Love In The Midst Of War) and SHEROES – empowered to empower."
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused great havoc in the world and has pulled back humanity many years behind wiuth regards to the quest for development. "NOW is the time to think about sustainable, inclusive and equitable ways to solve the world’s pressing issues, especially relating to women empowerment and gender equality," Wadi concludes.
Being a solutions driven young person, Wadi has some suggestions on possible inclusive options. "Going forward, I desire to live in a world where we can all lead fulfilling lives, irrespective of background or identity. To achieve our collective goal." Wadi believes the following should be taken into consideration:
- Provide adequate funding for quality, innovative and inclusive education, especially for the girl
- Funding security
- Creation of safe spaces and emergency centres
- Mental health awareness and providing services in collaboration with therapists, psychologists, etc
- Stakeholder engagement; monitoring and evaluation
- Imposing of age consent to be at least 18
- Empowering women through skills acquisition and vocational training
- All these and more are possible and achievable. We are all we need to save the day; me and you