There is a category of people who do not have the ability to dream, to say 'I want to be a CEO', because at the age of 9 they are forced to become a wife. They do not have the freedom to become what they want to be.
Heritage Sanmi-Lawal is empowering women, who are often forgotten by the feminist movement, to achieve their dreams. The founder of Her Dream Initiative (HDI), an organization that empowers young girls and women, and supports the fight against gender-based violence based in Nigeria, Heritage Sanmi Lawalits is passionate about empowering women who have been 'othered' to achieve their dreams. Her enthusiasm to leave no one behind is what pushed her to start HDI in 2021, an organization aimed at enabling young women and girls to dream. In this interview, Heritage speaks to us about the start of Her Dream Initiative, her journey as a law student and its impact on her project, and her love for KDramas.
Heritage got her start volunteering with a number of organizations, including, the Women at Risk International Foundation, Amnesty International UK, Hacey Health Initiative, Malala Fund, and Thrive CIC before. But her HDI path started with school outreaches where her team would speak with young girls about gender-based violence. Speaking with these girls helped Heritage gain an understanding of the never-ending potential of women, which further sparked her passion and purpose.
But her work goes beyond outreaches, a recent law graduate, Heritage has used her research skills to push the HDI agenda. The HDI team works with other organizations to address global issues affecting women through their research projects. But the collaboration goes beyond this research work. An advocate for partnering with others, Heritage believes that much more can be achieved if youth-led organizations work together to address common issues.
There is so much that collaboration and partnership can do. And it goes beyond money or funding, it could be something as simple as organizaing an Instagram Live session or having a Twitter Space discussion. It is easy for you to have visibility in other parts of the world when you have these collaborations.
Beyond collaboration, Heritage believes that every social impact leader should have the right network of changemakers. She believes that finding the right community with similar beliefs goes a long way and is one of the reasons for HDI's success.
Heritage's social impact journey is not one without setbacks. At the start, she had a hard time reaching out to people to speak to them about HDI's work and why they should make a commitment to it. But she has learnt that even if there are no's, all you need is that one 'yes'.
Convincing other people and organisations about where their money is going is difficult at first, but it gets easier.
A year after starting HDI, Heritage's biggest lesson is realizing that her personal growth and that of her organizations are interconnected. Although you are not your impact project and your impact project is not you, your growth, thoughts, and effort, do affect your project. In her words;
Social impact cannot be achieved without personal growth. The moments I found myself struggling, that's when HDI was hanging by the thread. But when I grew, personally and emotionally, HDI also grew.
The evolution of Her Dream Initiative has been a gradual, slow-paced process, but it has only aided Heritage's growth as a person and also impacted the lives of women and young girls. Heritage's work is telling in the lives she has impacted. We will be keeping our eyes peeled on the work Heritage does through HDI as she continues to create a reality where women can dream. Want to listen to the full episode? Click this link or press play below!
Check out Heritage's long list of Recommendations!
Connect with Heritage!
Learn more about Her Dream Initiative
Atoshi is a writer, travel enthusiast, and self-proclaimed photographer currently studying in 10th grade in Bangladesh. Atoshi is passionate about listening and telling stories of people, and changemakers all over the world. She loves to meet and connect with new people since she believes there is no better way to learn about other people's lifestyles and cultures other than that. She finds moments of peace in her day-to-day life through street photography and occasional binge-watching movies.
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
Want to connect with Zulu?