Shiza Shahid, Cofounder Of The Malala Fund, Is Seeking The Next Young Female Revolutionary

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It’s time to get familiar with the name Shiza Shahid. She is changing the world and looking for other women to join her along the way.

Shiza is the co-founder and former CEO of The Malala Fund. Her journey is an extraordinary insight into the power of determination and how age, gender, race and socio-economic background doesn’t have to be a deterrent unless you allow it.

In fact when you learn more about Shiza’s life and achievements, you get a snapshot of the type of life Malala is trying to fight for for girls all around the world.

Shiza was born in the the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, a much more cosmopolitan & progressive area than Malala’s home town in rural Swat Valley which has been ruled by the Taliban. Shiza won a scholarship to Standford University in the US and today divides her time between Los Angeles and New York.

Fun fact: Shiza recently made an appearance at NYFW in Carrie Hammer’s ‘Role Models not Runway Models’ show which featured many female CEOs and an actress with down syndrome.

In an interview with Net-A-Porter, she talks about the thought of being blocked from getting an education simply based on her gender as incredulous, yet this is what led her to leave her high-powered corporate job and work to change the world for young girls who weren’t as lucky as her.

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It was a year after Malala got shot in the head by the Taliban that Shiza reached out to her and her family with the idea to do something big.

“It could have been me. Here was this girl wanting to go to school, in an area just a few hours away from where I grew up. I had written in a college essay that if I could get an education at Stanford, I would give back to my community. So I reached out to Malala’s family; I wanted to help,” she said.

From a young age she had been passionate about women’s rights and girls education. In fact her activism had enabled her to cross paths with Malala years before the Malala Fund was founded. Shiza created a mentorship camp for girls in Malala’s region to help them communicate their stories to the world, and that’s where the two initially met.

Shiza says it was her rebellion against the patriarchal culture that made her want to become an activist.

“When I was 13, I volunteered in women’s prisons, and later at an earthquake relief camp. From early on, I felt I could make a difference.”

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After Malala was shot and sent to the UK to recover in hospital, she reached out to Shiza for help. At first Shiza helped them manage the barrage of publicity requests, but when she started to see the powerful effect this young girl’s story had on the world, she knew they could use this story in a much bigger way.

“I brought up the idea of a book to tell their story, then a fund, and they said they needed me to do it.”

She left her job at a big investment firm with no certainty about her future except that what she was doing was going to be extraordinary, and that it was right.

“If we were able to make her into a power symbol, could we do something meaningful? Would the fund work? It was scary. But there are certain moments in life when you have to decide who you are, and you have to make those decisions from your heart.”

When Malala won the Nobel Peace in 2014, becoming the youngest person in history to do so, Shiza says that became the ultimate confirmation that what the fund had done over the past couple of years was making an impact.

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“When I came in, there was this injured girl, her family had never been out of Pakistan. Two years later we had two best-selling books, a documentary coming out, and a great organization,” she said.

At the end of 2014, Shiza stepped down as CEO and is preparing for her next adventure, finding the next Malala.

“I want to find, mentor and invest in other great female entrepreneurs who are bringing change.”

In the video interview with Time below, Shiza said that Malala’s initial view when they set up the Malala Fund was to get education to EVERY girl in the world and to empower them. It sounded like a lofty goal to Shiza at first, but now her own decision to continue that journey of empowerment elsewhere is a reflection of the impact Malala has had even on her.

Shiza’s personal role models include United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and actress Angelina Jolie who have worked closely with her and supported her journey. And while not all of us have world famous women as our besties, Shiza says that’s not the point. The point is for us to support each other.

“Women have a lot of innate talent. We have to help each other.”

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