All semester long the Honors Program has been closely connected to the life and mission of Malala Yousafzai. From reading her autobiography, I am Malala, for the Fall Book Club. To then raising money for her organization, the Malala Fund through a Penny War competition, students in the Honors Program have been dedicated to learning about Malala’s struggles, and discovering what they can do to help accomplish her goal. Over the past few months, members of the Honors Student Congress worked diligently to bring a speaker to campus that was connected to Malala, and as a result of these efforts Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund, came to campus on November 19th as a part of the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series.
Born in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, Shiza Shahid has spent her entire life dedicated to helping women. Her hard work has led her to receive success and recognition at a young age. A graduate of Stanford University, Shiza Shahid has been named as one of TIME magazine’s “30 Under 30 World Changers,” Forbes “30 Under 30” list of social entrepreneurs, and Fortune magazine’s “55 Most Influential Women on Twitter.”
Shiza Shahid delivered an inspiring and deeply thoughtful message to students, faculty, staff, and members of the Bridgewater community. She began by telling students “You are the next generation of leaders.”
Her message was then broken down into four themes, the first being “Pursuing a Path of Growth and Discovery.” During this section of her address she spoke about her parents and their dedicated to offering her the best education available. She also talked about the volunteer work she started in her teenage years, including volunteering in women’s prisons and at an earthquake relief camp.
When speaking about her next theme, “You have the Power to Change What You Cannot Accept,” Shiza Shahid spoke about the summer camp she held in Pakistan when she was only 20 years old, telling the audience, “There are no superheroes, just us. We are the ones we have been waiting for.” The summer camp she held was inspired and attended by Malala herself.
When discussing the third theme “Living a Life of Passion” Shiza Shahid described the moment she found out Malala had been shot, and the decision she made to leave her job and help start the Malala Fund, telling the audience that there are certain moments in life when you have to decide who you are.
The final theme of the night was “Creating by Learning, Pivoting, and Innovating.” At this point Shiza Shahid described the goals of the Malala Fund and told the audience “this is a marathon, not a sprint,” recognizing that it will take time before every girl has access to a quality education. She also urged audience members to embrace their strength as her main message of the evening.
Afterwards, Shiza Shahid participated in a question and answer session with the audience. She answered questions about what students can do to take the first step, Malala’s current life, and the United States and United Nations role in helping achieve the goals of the Malala Fund. Shiza Shahid also took the time to meet with several members of the honors student congress. Overall the event was extremely inspiring and deeply fascinating!