Shiza Shahid of the Malala Fund, Getty Images.

Shiza Shahid of the Malala Fund, Getty Images.

The organiser Shiza Shahid

When they first met, Shiza Shahid connected instantly with Malala Yousafzai, a teen fighting for women’s rights to education. Today, the Malala Fund is growing in strength, including a Nobel Peace Prize for Malala.

Shiza Shahid and Malala Yousafzai, TT.

When Stanford University student and activist Shiza Shahid met women’s education advocate Malala Yousafzai in 2009, there was an instant connection. The two young women shared a goal of releasing girls around the world from a cycle of poverty owed to restricted education and schooling. In 2012, Malala was shot on her way to school in northwest Pakistan by members of the Taliban. Instantly, Shiza sprang into action and dedicated herself fully to setting up the Malala Fund for girls’ education. Not looking back, Shiza and Malala are tackling this immense global issue admirably, their hearts set on giving every young woman a chance to reach her full potential. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed: Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year.


TELL US WHY YOU AND MALALA YOUSAFZAI VIEW WOMEN’S RIGHT TO EDUCATION AS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF ALL SOCIETIES, AND ULTIMATELY, THE WORLD.
As a society, we’ve made good progress in improving primary [attendance]. Secondary is when drop-out happens, because that’s when a girl becomes “a woman who can be married off and have children”. She’s then stuck in the same poverty cycle as her mother. If you’re able to keep a girl in school for that period, you delay the point when she gets married, reduce the risk of her dying in childbirth, her children dying in childbirth, and her children having poor health. You improve the chance that she will actually be able to earn an income. Statistically, 90 per cent of every dollar that a woman earns is invested back into the community, as opposed to 30 per cent for men. So the impact of keeping a girl in school, and everything that results from that, is really a silver bullet for lifting society out of poverty.

IT’S BEEN ALMOST A YEAR NOW SINCE YOU HELPED START THE MALALA FUND. TELL US ABOUT THE CHANGE YOU’VE WITNESSED.
It’s been almost two years since Malala was shot and I joined her to build a movement, but it’s only about ten months since we’ve had the Malala Fund up and running full time. So we’re very much a start-up. We’re working on a book and movie that will come out next year; we’ve started thinking about strategy and execution; and we’re spending a lot of time with really terrific people, trying to understand how we can be truly impactful.

We feel like the world is listening, so we’re trying to use that as effectively as possible for change at policy level. Because we know if we want to move billions of dollars, we're going to have to do it by getting governments to do the right thing, to deliver. And so we’ve been focusing a lot on our advocacy work, but also on empowering local entrepreneurs who are education leaders in their own communities.

TELL US ABOUT A MOMENT OF GENEROSITY OR KINDNESS THAT’S REALLY INSPIRED YOU ALONG THE WAY.
When I was 16 I snuck out to protest. At the time, my dad was in the Navy and we were legally not allowed to protest, as a condition of working for the government. The next day I was on the front page of the paper and terrified. I tried to hide the paper at home, but I saw my parents smiling and realised that even though I didn’t have permission, I kind of did. Throughout my life they’ve been so selfless in letting me go out and do things [that are important to me]. Without their unconditional love, I would not have had the bravery to do what I do, and to take the risks that I have.

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