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.



Public Organization “Marifatnoki” is a youth organization and the projects are implemented by youths of Rasht Valley in Tajikistan. The mission of organization is to improve the level of Youth Education, cultivate in them leadership skills, and find volunteering possibility for youth in our region. Currently, our major projects are: Young Leader Program and English Access Micro scholarship Program which educates more than 160 teenagers every year in different communities (jamoats) of our remote district, Rasht. Because of the low attendance of girls in school and other educational activities in remote places of Tajikistan, we always try to involve and encourage girls to join our classes, activities and we try to maintain a gender balance. In 2007, only one girl applied to our program, but now about half the number of participants in our program are girls.

This year, within Young Leader Program, we taught civic education courses to 160 youths, 80 boys and 80 girls, youth ages of 13 to 18, in three jamoats of Rasht Valley. The youths are educated in subjects like volunteerism, leadership skills, community services, responsible citizenship, democracy, gender balance, religion and rights, government, presentation, public speaking, negotiation, debating and mediation skills. These youths come together to discuss and debate the issues problems we have in our country, especially on human rights, rights of girls in family, in our remote religious district. Many of our students are girls who are from poor families. They are very clever and active, compared to the boys. In our English Access program classes, our girls start speaking English fluently within six months and their knowledge of English today enable them to be active pupils in their communities. The English language is also a great tool for protection of their rights.