Keynote Speaker

Rez Gardi

Rez Gardi

International lawyer and human rights activist. Co-founder of the Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies

Rez Gardi is a human rights lawyer and activist. She was born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan as her Kurdish family escaped persecution in their home land of Kurdistan.

Arriving in New Zealand with nothing, Rez sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to succeed, becoming New Zealand’s first Kurdish female lawyer. In 2019 she graduated as a Fulbright Scholar with a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School. She is the first Kurd in history to graduate from Harvard Law.

She is currently working as a Harvard Human Rights Fellow on the border of Iraq and Turkey to gather evidence of the targeted genocidal campaign carried out by ISIS against the Yezidis, including mass executions, kidnapping, torture, sexual violence, and other egregious human rights abuses, using a victim-centric approach. This evidence will be used to build cases to prosecute the ISIS perpetrators.

She is passionate about supporting young refugees and believes education is pivotal to changing the future for refugees. She is the founder of Empower – a youth-led organisation to empower and enable refugee youth through education, leadership, and capacity-building, so that young refugees can pursue a meaningful future. Empower provides a mentoring initiative to address the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education and provides workshops to foster participation, leadership, and empowerment opportunities for young refugees. She is working on projects with refugee youth in camps across Uganda and Kenya to find innovative ways to access education because there simply aren’t enough schools to accommodate all the youth in the camps. Through her work she has reached over 10,000 refugee youth.

She was awarded the Young New Zealander of the Year in 2017 for her services to human rights and is an Eisenhower Youth Fellow. She was a Women of Influence Finalist and NEXT Woman of the Year Finalist in 2018 and in 2021, Rez was recognised as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers for her work in Human Rights, Advocacy and Criminal Law.

Rez has been inspiring audiences around the globe including representing New Zealand in the first ever Global Refugee Youth Consultations, and helped form the Global Youth Advisory Council to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She has represented refugee youth at the UNHCR-NGO Consultations, and the High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges of Children on the Move, all in Geneva, the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Conference in Bangkok, the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen and the OECD Forum in Paris.


Nandini Singh

Nandini Singh

Co-Founder of Kairos, 2022 CEO of Velocity

Currently pursuing a BCom degree with a specialisation in Finance and Economics, Nandini is actively engaged in various community activities, including serving as the CEO of the Velocity program in 2022 and leading a non-profit student initiative called Kairos. Kairos is a non-profit educational programme that aims to empower low-decile students to enter university education. A multi-step programme, Kairos consists of workshops and a mentorship programme that equips students with the support they need to successfully transition from high school into university education.

A high achiever, Nandini was awarded the EY Business Student of the Year 2022 and was the 2022 recipient of the Most Outstanding Contribution (Service and Leadership) Blues Award in 2022.

Nandini is committed to making a positive impact in her community and creating a positive impact wherever she goes.

Countdown to ASPIRE 2024 (3 July, 2024)








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