Shiza Shahid is an entrepreneur and social activist of Pakistani origin. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund, the organization representing the young Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban for her campaign for girls’ education. A graduate of Stanford University, Shiza was previously a business analyst at McKinsey & Company in the Middle East. She is now leading Malala Fund in its work to empower girls through education, so they can recognize their potential and be agents of positive change in their communities. Shiza was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s 30 Under 30 World Changers. and to Forbes 30 Under 30 list of social entrepreneurs.Shahid was born and raised in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, and began her life of activism at a very early age. As a teen, she spent time working with children born to women in prison and volunteered at a relief camp in the wake of a devastating earthquake in 2005. Shahid received a scholarship to Stanford University at 18 and moved to California for the next four years, but she never stopped reading about her home country, particularly the issues facing its women.
By 2007, the Taliban was firmly in control of Pakistan and by 2009, the Taliban had bombed 2,000 schools for girls. In January 2009, the Taliban issued an official order preventing girls from attending school. “There was just immense fear,” says Shahid.
Violence in the region increased. Shahid, then a sophomore at Stanford, remembers sleeping with her phone ringer on loud. A bomb blew up the hotel where Shahid’s sister was married. The Pakistan she called home had rapidly begun to crumble.
It was around that time that Shahid watched a New York Times documentary about Malala, a then 11-year-old girl who had been secretly blogging for the BBC about her day-to-day struggle to get an education in Pakistan.
Touched by her own fortune and access to an elite education, Shahid reached out to Malala, asking what she could do to help. Shahid ended up organizing a camp that summer in Islamabad, about three hours south of the Swat Valley, for Malala and 26 other young girls. The camp aimed to empower them to be effective activists and entrepreneurs.
It was only a few years later in 2012 when Malala, sitting on a school bus, was hunted down and shot in the face by a member of the Taliban.
Shahid, who was working as an analyst at McKinsey & Co. in Dubai at the time, flew to the hospital in England where Malala was transferred. In the first few days after the shooting, nobody was sure if Malala would survive. But she did. And when she became physically stable, she committed herself to pushing forward with her cause.
Shahid stepped into a leadership position, managing the media blitz and growing global interest in Malala and her story. Realizing the potential catalyst Malala’s story could be for the movement to educate girls, Malala’s family and Shahid came up with the idea to establish a fund.