The top half of a maple leaf in orange, yellow and brown, with Adinkra visual symbols originating in West Africa

Feb. 18, 2021

Plight of kidnapped Nigerian girls galvanizes law student into taking action

Mirabelle Harris-Eze will be the first in her family to practise law in Canada

Don't let the Miss Nigeria title fool you. Mirabelle Harris-Eze, first-year law student at the University of Calgary, is a force to be reckoned with. Harris-Eze summoned her passion for improving access to justice, and the platform of Miss Beauty of Africa, to draw attention to women who are disproportionately impacted by acts of terrorism and war.

“The wonderful thing about Miss Beauty of Africa is that it is more than a gauge of someone’s physical appearance. It is about gathering African women together to celebrate culture and draw attention to the critical issues facing not only African women, but women around the globe.”

Harris-Eze's 2016 campaign focused on the theme #BringBackOurGirls, launched to help find young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped while trying to go to school. The notion of teenagers denied access to education solely by virtue of their gender struck a chord, and she found herself protesting at city hall and emailing her Member of Parliament to raise awareness.

Mirabelle Harris-Eze

Mirabelle Harris-Eze.

Passion for community service

That same year, Harris-Eze was also the recipient of the Cy Ekwulugo Volunteerism Award from the Nigerian Community Association of Calgary (NCAC), which recognizes an individual who embodies the spirit of volunteerism within the Nigerian community and the world at large.

“I am passionate about volunteering in the community, and it has provided me with so many unique opportunities over the past decade, such as dancing in Calgary Stampede parades, organizing galas, and launching the Youth Council for the NCAC.

“I hope to continue to engage in public service and volunteerism throughout my entire life,” she says. “Whether that is in the form of taking on pro bono or engaging in non-legal volunteer work, community service is something I love doing.”

For Harris-Eze, it was an image in her junior high history textbook that inspired her journey to law school and helped her develop the knowledge that justice and order are important to eliminating the inequalities in the world.

“I saw a photo of Lady Justice with her blindfold and scale, and it was such a beacon of hope and light in a world that I thought was so unfair. I wanted to do something that could help make it less unfair.”

Family members inspire goal

That image, along with inspiration from various family members who practise law in Nigeria, including a grandmother, grandfather, and uncle, were the driving forces behind her goal to become a lawyer.

“While I have family members who practise, or have practised law in Nigeria, I will be the first one in my family to give it a shot in Canada. Even though we are an ocean away, it is interesting that there is so much similarity between law all over the world. We are all in different places, but we all have similar passions — advocacy, community service, access to justice — that ground us and make us want to achieve similar things in life.”

Find more Black History Month events and stories from UCalgary.  

Black History Month is a time to learn more about the Canadian stories and the many other important contributions of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, and about the diversity of Black communities in Canada and their importance to the history of this country.