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This week we are proud to introduce you to Shiza Shahid who is part of our 9 to Watch series – a set of interviews that highlights 9 incredible innovators from around the world.

Photo courtesy of Shiza Shahid
Photo courtesy of Shiza Shahid

When Shiza Shahid first met Malala Yousafzai, she was struck not just by this young advocate’s power and eloquence, but by the overwhelming sense of how different her life could have been.

“It was just one degree of separation between this child and my own destiny,” explains Shahid. A single degree, not six, now drives much of her work as the Malala Fund‘s cofounder. She is intimately connected to the global movement for girls’ rights and education for all as a matter of justice, not charity. She is working hard to create momentum from what we all saw organically arise from Malala’s selfless act of justice and bravery. The moment we heard the world cry: “Enough! We will protect our children, we will educate our children.”

Given the potential velocity of that momentum, Shiza has much to do and even more on the horizon. This year, the Fund is putting serious effort into Syrian refugee education, partnering with aid agencies and the grassroots organizations to bring attention to the looming threat of a lost generation.

As an organization, they’re building up rapidly, beginning with an incredibly cross-functional board, with representation from GoogleX and McKinsey, and team. Shiza is very reflective about the composition, knowing that it is the diversity of age and experience that will ultimately lead to the greatest impact. It’s going to be another big year for the Malala Fund.

Shiza eloquently depicts why it’s imperative to empower every voice, every mind:

“We define who we are as a global community. We define what we choose to accept
and what we choose to solve. This arbitrary way we have of defining our circles of
concern – where they end at a border or end on the perimeter of a city – those aren’t
real. We just need to decide who we are as a civilization and what we stand for.
Because once we do that, everything else is solvable and none of these are natural
states of being: not poverty, not violence, not injustice […] There’s so much out there
to celebrate and so much diversity. The cures for cancer and other diseases that
we’re facing or the technological progress we’re aspiring to – these are trapped
inside the mind of a child in a rural village who isn’t able to go to school. So we are
only as strong as the weakest among us. That’s what I believe.”

WATCH Shiza harness the power of a generation and eschew traditional borders, in every sense of the word.

Check out the full 9 to Watch series here


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UNICEF and UNDP in Montenegro: Putting innovation in the center
Video: Next Generation’s first volunteer field trip with Burundi Innovation Lab