Malala Fund co-founder: Live with purpose and create change

Education and vocation are building blocks of success

Studying business at Stanford University, the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship, Shiza Shahid keenly felt her privilege – especially at a time when girls 200 miles from her hometown in Pakistan were being denied an education.

“I felt deeply accountable to this issue, to these girls,” she told an audience of 400 students and professionals gathered today at Mount Mary University for the Women’s Leadership Institute’s Voices of Leadership event. See event photos on social media.

Ultimately, Shahid would become the organizing force behind the Malala Fund, bringing to the public arena the story of a single girl who was wounded but not victimized in her struggle for an education. As Shahid shared photos of Malala Yousafzai receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, she explained that mission, purpose and education were transformational – “we had changed Malala’s story,” she said. “If there is a silver bullet in economic development it’s educating young girls.”

“I am so excited to be here. [Mount Mary University] is an institute that has dedicated itself to preparing the next generation of leaders.”

Shiza Shahid
Co-founder, Malala Fund

In the years that followed, Shahid’s passion for change has landed her on numerous prestigious lists, including Time’s and Forbes’ 30 Under 30. Today she supports other change-makers, and her new seed-stage venture capital fund, NOW Ventures, funds startups around the world.

Shahid said her ideas around the concept of creating meaningful change – whether personal, professional or global in scale - are based upon her business sensibility. She used a Venn diagram to explain the Japanese concept of ikigai, a purpose-filled life. She explained this as strategically understanding the range where one’s strengths, passions, abilities and community needs come into alignment.

“Never doubt your ability to achieve, overcome or inspire anything,” she told the group.

This belief in the power of one person’s determination is not only consistent with the messaging behind the Malala phenomenon, but also the mission of Mount Mary University, which hosted the event.

“Malala is fighting passionately for the right of girls to be educated, and in the early 19th century, the School Sisters of Notre Dame were founded to educate girls, who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to be educated,” said University President Eileen Schwalbach. The SSNDs founded Mount Mary – Wisconsin’s first Catholic, all-women’s institution – in 1913. “The SSND constitution says, ‘We educate with the conviction that the world can be changed through the transformation of persons,’” Schwalbach said. “That is the work that we honor and continue today.” The annual Voices of Leadership event brings together and engages Milwaukee’s professional community around topics and ideas that underscore the mission and purpose of Mount Mary University.

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Shiza Shahid

There are certain moments in your life when you will have to decide who you are; Listen to your heart and be bold.

Shiza Shahid