Aisha Waziri, (YES alumna 2011-2012, Poughkeepsie, NY), was nominated for the 120 Under 40 New Generation of Family Planning Leaders grant.
“My exchange year in the United State has played a big role in who I am today, the opportunity I had to do community service in the United State is what shaped me today. I was able to complete over 100 hours of community service because of my host family’s support.”
After returning to Nigeria, Waziri served in leadership roles through the YES Alumni Association of Nigeria and served as the deputy chairperson for the Young African Leaders Union. She was also selected to be a member of the United Nations Population Fund Youth Advisory Group in 2016. Waziri has also volunteered with several organizations in Nigeria including the Sanusi Sickle Cell Foundation, the Interfaith Mediation Centre and the Tattali Women Association. Currently, Waziri is a volunteer at the Centre for Girls Education in Kaduna State, Nigeria.
“My advice to prospective host family is: when you take in a child to host, you’re not only giving that child a home for a year but a family for a lifetime. My host family is my biggest supporter and I keep in touch with them. I even talk to them about the projects I’m working on and they render me advice. They are always there to listen.”
Waziri’s passion for advocating family planning began after her 15-year-old friend died during childbirth. Her friend was removed from school at the age of 14 and married off. Waziri’s goal as a family planning leader is to educate other families so they can make informed decisions about marriage and family planning.
“What also pushed my interest is the fact that I have come across a lot of young girls in rural communities whose dreams have been shattered due to early marriage or have been taken out of school and married off by their parents at a very young age, making them mothers at tender ages,” said Waziri. “I feel if these girls and their parents are educated on sexual and reproductive health, they would have made informed decisions.”
Waziri began advocating for family planning in her community after conducting research and learning that most maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria being the largest contributor. Since family planning and reproductive health are sensitive topics within Waziri’s predominantly Muslim community, one of her strategies is to advocate for the support of religious and community leaders.
Over 700 people were nominated for the 2017 award, of those 40 will be selected to receive a $1,000 grant. If Waziri is named a winner of the 2017 120 Under 40, she will receive a $1,000 grant to advance her work by collaborating with change makers in other countries to learn more about strategies she can implement in her own community.
Public voting for winners of the 120 Under 40 grant opened June 1, 2017 and will remain open until June 15. You can vote for Waziri here by creating a guest account. The winners will be announced in Sept. 2017.
120 Under 40 is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with sponsorship by Bayer. The project began in 2015 with the goal of selecting 40 winners in 2016, 2017 and 2019 for a total of 120 honorees. The organization celebrates and awards honorees from around the world with grants to further their work in the field of family planning.