Nominated Asian Girl Ambassador 2013: Zehra Shah (Finalist)

Syeda Zehra Shah's Photo

Name: Zehra Shah

Organization: Pakistan’s Human Resources Organization (HRO)

Awards/Achievements: 1) Facilitator for non-formal education; 2) Human rights education trainer; 3) Volunteer with different non-profit organizations




I am from a Pathan family (same ethnic group as Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by extremists last year). In Pathan communities, girls are discouraged from going to school, and they face early marriages. I started volunteering at the age of 14, when I saw the discrimination between girls and boys. I have conducted seminars and facilitated sessions on young women’s empowerment and leadership. I also facilitated training for girls at government schools to help them understand their fundamental rights, as well as help develop their communication skills.

I want to continue this struggle for girls’ rights, so that women in my country will also be included in democratic processes in every sphere of life. I want to be a role model in my society and promote education, women’s and girls’ rights, young women’s leadership, and civic education among women and girls.

My organization, the Human Resources Organization (HRO), is an NGO formed and led by young, professional, well-educated activists from Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. All of the founding members were under 20 when the organization was created in 2008, so they did not immediately register it, but after two years, they wanted to have a legal identity and expand its work.

HRO started its work from human empowerment initiatives and started small, community-based educational institutes, providing free computer and language courses. HRO works with various education institutions to offer scholarships to poor students. HRO also works to improve the lives of poor students, child laborers and street beggars by providing skills-based training in things like automobile repair and the beautician field.

Today, HRO is a leading organization for other small-scale organizations. It also works on initiatives like advocacy and capacity building for SRHR and HIV/AIDS. HRO is harnessing the strong support of young people to work on anti-drug and harm-reduction awareness campaigns through different media outlets and networks. HRO involves young people in policy-making dialogues and supports them to raise their voices for their rights.

The Asian Girl Rights Ambassador program will be an opportunity for me to increase my exposure and experience, allowing me to learn from people around the world on how to fight for people’s rights. I will also share my experience of people in my country, so that others can understand our situation too. I will share my knowledge about my community work, how we face gender discrimination, how I implement my projects in the community, and the issues I face in my work, which arise from the negative stereotypes about girls who are active in the community system.

Girl Revolution and the Butterfly Effect

Asian Girl Campaign Butterfly Hand GestureThe universally recognized butterfly hand gesture has been named the official hand symbol of the Asian Girl Campaign. The campaign, which seeks to make the world a better place through the empowerment of girls, was established in 2012 by the Garden of Hope Foundation to promote the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, which falls on October 11 every year.

Change Leads to Change

The butterfly gesture was chosen for the Asian Girl Campaign because the changes butterflies go through in their lives symbolize the journey abused girls take during their recovery. Personal change leads to change in society and change in society leads to personal change, and if this happens enough, it can grow into a revolution. The Garden of Hope Foundation is hoping the new butterfly hand gesture will help create a “change to change” revolution for girls across Asia.


Just as colorful butterflies begin their lives as ugly caterpillars, many girls across Asia live ugly lives of discrimination and abuse. When they begin to receive help, they enter cocoons of protection against violence, therapy and shelter. Just like butterflies, they transform inside their cocoons and emerge as very different creatures.


When butterflies leave their cocoons, they are free from their old lives and can fly wherever they want. They are not safe from danger, though, as their delicate wings leave them vulnerable. Hence, butterflies, and girls, too, should unite to find safety in numbers.

Asian Girl Campaign Butterfly

Asian Girl Campaign Butterfly

The final reason the butterfly is a good symbol for the Asian Girl Campaign is something called the butterfly effect. Although a butterfly flapping its wings is not very powerful, the energy produced by a group of butterflies could cause a change on the other side of the world.

Girl Revolution

Girls may not appear to be strong or influential, but their actions can have wide-reaching consequences. If enough of them join together, there’s no limit to changes they can produce in the world.

Butterfly Group