Rez Gardi

Young New Zealander of the Year


University of Canterbury

Young New Zealander of the Year

Te Mātātahi o te Tau

University of Canterbury
Rez was born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan as her Kurdish family escaped persecution in their home land of Kurdistan. She is now a practising  international lawyer, Harvard Satter Human Rights Fellow, and human rights
advocate. Arriving in New Zealand with nothing, Rez sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to succeed, becoming New Zealand’s first female Kurdish lawyer. 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 Co-Managing Director for Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT), a refugee-led international initiative working to enhance the effectiveness of global refugee responses, by co-designing mechanisms to amplify refugee leadership ecosystems and increase the participation of refugees at state levels in a meaningful, sustainable, and transformative

She is the founder of ‘Empower’ — a refugee-youth-led organization aiming to address the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education. Through their projects, they empower and enable refugee youth through education, leadership, and capacity-building, so that young refugees can pursue a meaningful future. Through her work, she has reached over 20,000 refugee youth globally.

She is a co-founder and adjunct research fellow for the Centre for the Asia Pacific Refugee Studies, an academic institution based at the University of Auckland, which responds to challenges of forced displacement through evidence-based scholarship and high-impact
research to inform positive approaches to support people forcibly displaced by both climate change and conflict induced displacement.