Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Change For Good

Entrepreneur and social-justice advocate Shiza Shahid inspires others to help make the world a better place

Words: Rebecca Lo
Photos: Nic Gaunt

Shiza Shahid

Shiza Shahid is posing for photos in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s MO Bar, after a whirlwind day of interviews. Although it is well past 4 pm, she finally has time to sit down to a belated lunch of mini burgers. Before tucking in, the petite 27-year-old with flowing locks and a wide smile offers some to share. That is Shahid in a nutshell: always looking out for those around her, to ensure that fair is fair.

Shahid is co-founder of the Malala Fund – a charity that advocates for the right of girls to a quality education – with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Born in Islamabad, Shahid hails from a Pakistan that no longer exists. “I come from a modest, self-made family and my parents worked hard to make sure their children had a good education,” she recalls. “It was a loving home, despite our living in a turbulent country. Growing up, I saw that there was rising violence, suicide attacks and declining security. It was one of the worst places to be female.”

  

I want to return to my passion of supporting bold advocates

  

Instead of hiding from the violence, Shahid found within herself a passion to speak on behalf of those without a voice. After receiving
a full scholarship to Stanford University in the United States, she was a sophomore when the fundamentalist Taliban took over parts of Pakistan in 2009. “There I was, getting a great education, and three hours from where I grew up, education was banned for women,” she says. Shahid was inspired to organise a summer camp for Yousafzai and 26 other girls in Islamabad after she came across the then 11-year-old’s videos about her daily plight to get an education.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction, majoring in international relations, Shahid worked for management consultancy McKinsey & Company as a business analyst. Then, in October 2012, she heard that Yousafzai had been shot by the Taliban on her way to school in northern Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The event changed everything for both women. Shahid, then based in Dubai, flew to England where Yousafzai was hospitalised. Yousafzai convinced Shahid to help set up the Malala Fund and be its CEO. On behalf of the fund, Shahid crisscrossed the world to speak about female empowerment.

The two women remain close. When Shahid married entrepreneur Amir Tehrani in September last year, Yousafzai gave a toast at her wedding. “I have seen Malala grow up; she is like a little sister to me,” says Shahid.

Most recently, Shahid founded NOW Ventures, a start-up designed to assist innovative entrepreneurs. “I want to return to my passion of supporting bold advocates,” she says. “Help fuel the growth of sectors that understand the power of missiondriven enterprises and deal with challenges in health, environment and education. Promote equality. Do good when doing well is the norm.” Despite the dangers associated with her work, she takes care to put the safety of herself and her family members first. “I rarely go above the radar; I take measured risks and am always very cautious,” she says.

Shahid believes everyone has a unique talent to make a difference. “There are big social challenges no matter where you live,” she observes. “What do you care about? If you are a senior executive at a firm, maybe you can mentor young women. If you are a writer, you can write about the issues you are passionate about. You can challenge the status quo. We are all in unique positions and we all crave to leave a legacy.”

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