Rez Gardi saw the worst of humanity as a child living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Fast-forward 18 years and the aspiring human rights lawyer has been rubbing shoulders with world leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General hopeful Helen Clark.

When Gardi, who came to New Zealand as a refugee at age 6, found out the former Prime Minister would be at the same conference in Copenhagen this week she pushed to meet her.

"I tweeted about how excited I was to see her and speak on issues women and girls face globally," Gardi said. Her efforts paid off and she and nine other young women spoke to Clark for about an hour.

Gardi was in the Danish capital as a Kiwi youth representative at the Women Deliver conference.


She talked women's rights with Clark, discussed her bid for the UN's top job and snapped a selfie with her.

Gardi said Clark was "inspirational, humble and down-to-earth".

Gardi is in Europe for five weeks. After the women's conference, she headed to the OECD forum in Paris, the Global Refugee Youth Consultations, and will attend the annual UNHCR NGO meeting in Geneva next month.

She plans to graduate with a Law and Arts degree from the University of Auckland in September.

It all could have been so different for Gardi, who was born in the Pakistan refugee camp to parents of Kurdish descent who fled Iraq more than 20 years ago.

"I could have just been a statistic among the refugees fleeing war and have no hope of survival."

But she said thanks to the opportunities of a life in New Zealand she has a successful career and plans to give back to the refugee community.