Young women leaders celebrate and inspire at ChangemakeHER at Expo 2020 Dubai

Aotearoa New Zealand showed its ongoing commitment to women’s empowerment by hosting ChangemakeHER as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s International Women’s Day ‘Break the Bias’ assembly.

Taking place on 8 March at the Dubai Exhibition Centre, the morning assembly provided a platform for nations and Expo partners to delve into important discussions about gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The ChangemakeHER session was led by New Zealand in partnership with the Expo 2020 Dubai Women’s Pavilion. H.E. Clayton Kimpton, Commissioner General of New Zealand at Expo, in his opening address said of empowering women that “We all have a role to play, it will sustain us for a better tomorrow.”

The session was opened by Annie Crummer MNZM, New Zealand singer-songwriter performing her iconic song ‘Language’. A fitting song to open the session about confidence, finding one’s voice and taking action.

A diverse panel of young women leaders spoke of their commitment to their work which paths the way for youth, and especially women, to access the critical support needed for their voice to be heard and in turn dreams to be realized. In their talks they shared their own stories in breaking the bias creating an inspiring and empowered environment for enriching discussions to take place.

The speakers includedHer Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Youth Affairs; Honorable Patience Masua, Member of Namibia Constituent Assembly; Peyton Klein, founder of Global Minds Initiative (USA) and Rez Gardi, International Lawyer (New Zealand).

The event was curated by Alexia Hilbertidou, a changemakeHER in her own right having founded GirlBoss New Zealand, which plays an important role in advocating for females across traditionally male dominated industries such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Leadership & Entrepreneurship.

Speaking on the power of embracing vulnerability, fear and self-doubt, Her Excellency Shamma Al Mazrui, who is focused on representing youth issues and aspirations at the UAE Cabinet, emphasised that women need to keep taking that one step forward in order to achieve all that we are capable of, “The best way of navigating ambiguity must be through ‘taking action’, using fear and self-doubt as fuel rather than an obstacle. The difference between average and outstanding is often just one more.”

The Honorable Patience Masua, who became a Member of Namibia Constituent Assembly at age 22 expressed the need for polices to be made that ensure the most vulnerable in society, which are often women, are catered for to ensure that all of society can thrive, “this is the magic that happens when you give young people a seat at the table, where young people are not spoken on behalf of, but speak by themselves, for themselves. It is just the beginning,” she said.

Peyton Klein founder of Global Minds Initiative, a nonprofit organization that created afterschool programs matching English as a second language students with English-speaking students in an effort to combat cultural intolerance spoke of the need for people to feel they have a safe space where they belong, “If there is one thing we have in common, it's our need for human connection. Each of one of us here today has not only a shared responsibility, but a unique opportunity to make this world feel a little bit more like home. So now I ask each one of you, “Where is your home?” Close your eyes, think about it, feel it. Take that warmth, Belongingness, closeness, and spread it widely.”

Rez Gardi, an international lawyer, and the first Kurd to graduate from Havard Law, expressed the need to continue to fight for more refugee youth to live their dreams, especially women refugees: “Today, an unprecedented 82.4 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, due to conflicts in which they have no say. In conflict and crisis situations, higher education serves as a powerful driver for change. It shelters and protects a critical group of young people by maintaining their hopes for the future, it fosters inclusion and non-discrimination, and, fundamentally, it acts as a catalyst for recovery and rebuilding.”

The ChangemakeHER session was part of the Break the Bias Assembly at Expo 2020 Dubai and can be viewed online at Virtual Expo: #BreaktheBias Assembly | World Expo (