Shiza Shahid discusses global advocacy

Malala Fund Co-Founder, CEO featured in campus event


Malala Fund Co-Founder and CEO speaks for community audience about her work in activism.

Jasmine Demers, Managing Editor


CSUSM recently welcomed global activist and Co-Founder/CEO of the Malala Fund, Shiza Shahid, to campus where she spoke to students and community members about her work in advocacy.

On Nov. 16, Shahid was featured in an Arts & Lectures series signature event titled There are No Superheroes, Just Us: My Journey With Malala.

Malala Yousafzai has become a worldwide advocate for women’s education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. At 15 years old, she was targeted and shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for participating in this very activism. When Yousafzai decided that she wanted to continue in this fight, after surviving a shot to the head, Shiza Shahid was by her side.

Shahid was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs as well as TIME magazine’s 30 Under 30 World Changers. She now works alongside Malala Yousafzai fighting for access to education for women and young girls throughout the world.

The event began with opening remarks from CSUSM Library Dean, Jennifer Fabbi, where she announced that over one thousand students had participated in this year’s Common Read program with the book “I Am Malala”.

President Haynes also spoke, and emphasized the importance of Shahid’s work in helping young girls to fight for their right to education. She then welcomed Shahid to the stage.

Shahid began by thanking CSUSM for dedicating itself to empowering students and helping to create a better world. She went on to further explain the students’ important role in helping to govern and shape society.

“Now to the students in the audience, today is really about you because you are the next generation of leaders. The world is yours to nurture, protect, and develop,” said Shahid. “I believe that it is us together who decide what our world looks like, how humanely we exist, how well we look after our planet and each other, how quickly we end poverty, eradicate incurable diseases, empower women. We are the caretakers of our combined human destiny.”

Shahid was born and raised in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, and it was here that she began her activism by volunteering with local groups including an organization working in female prisons as well as an earthquake relief camp. Shahid says that she grew up well, with a good education and a good support system, which she explained better than what many others had in other parts of Pakistan.

“The point of telling you all of this is because the things that I learned in these situations, I would never had known had I not looked beyond myself and the life I was born into.”

At 18 years old, Shahid received a scholarship to Stanford University and moved to California to pursue a degree in International Relations. When she was 20 years old, she and some of her peers organized a summer camp for young girls in Swat Valley, an area of Pakistan that had been taken over by the Taliban who refused to allow girls access to an education. It was here that she met the 12 year old Malala.

“Taking away the education of girls became a tactic of war… I didn’t know what I’d do but I knew I had to try, so I went to Pakistan that summer with a plan,” said Shahid. “I would help [the girls of Swat Valley] tell their stories to people of influence, people who could act to protect their education. I would give them the tools that they needed to be their own advocates.”

In 2012, Shahid graduated from Stanford and received a job offer from McKinsey & Company, the top business consulting firm in the world. After traveling with them for a year, she received a text message that she says changed her life.

“’Malala has been shot’, the text message read. I felt my world go silent…I dropped everything in my career immediately and flew to Birmingham in the UK where Malala had been airlifted for treatment,” said Shahid. “I told her once she was awake and feeling better, ‘The whole world is praying for you Malala. How can they help you?’ She looked at me and said, ‘But I am fine. Can you tell them to help the other girls?’”

Shahid says that it was at this point in her life when she decided to leave her stable career and embark on a journey to “help Malala inspire other girls and fight for their rights, [because] out of this horrible tragedy, the world was finally paying attention.”

Since the start of the Malala Fund, Shahid has help to raise millions of dollars to provide girls with an education. She also played a big role in persuading government leaders to act and provide 12 years of free, high-quality education for all children.

After telling her story, Shahid called audience members to action and provided them with inspiration for how they can get involved and make a difference.

“I want to help you move beyond inspiration to action. What is it that you plan to do with your one, wild and miraculous life?” said Shahid.

“Social Entrepreneurship is driving massive change… You don’t have to wait for governments to act, because they often don’t, and you don’t need the Gates Foundation to write you a $20 million check. You can really get started with an idea and a basic business plan,” said Shahid.

Shahid goes on to discuss issues such as education, prison reform, technology and gender equality. In closing, she urges students to step out of their comfort zone and to use their resources to disrupt injustice and create social change.

“We owe it to ourselves and to our world to choose to live intentionally, to find our passions and pursue them wholeheartedly, to commit our talents to making the world better, knowing that in that work we will find greater meaning,” said Shahid.

After her speech, Shahid answered questions from the audience and provided students with even more ideas about how they can get involved and become inspired to act.

“You must never doubt your ability to achieve anything, overcome anything, become anything, and inspire anything,” said Shahid. “Know that there are no superheroes, there’s just us, and too often we are the ones that we keep waiting for,” said Shahid.