March 2013 - Sonia Shah Organization


Sonia Shah dreamed of changing the world through girls’ education

Karin Ronnow, CAI’s communications director wrote a blog on Sonia’s journey, the Sonia Shah Foundation, and the raiser.
Iram and a vast team of Sonia’s friends and peers worked tirelessly to pull off the Feb. 23 event in suburban Chicago. More than 400 people celebrated home page Sonia’s life and achievements, donated to the Sonia Shah Foundation, and enjoyed dinner and live entertainment by the highly acclaimed singer-songwriter A.R. Rahman.

“Iram’s vision was to make this a celebration of the potential of youth to change the world, as well as a celebration of song and music, dance, poetry and art – all of which Sonia loved so much,” Greg said. “She also wanted to bring together diverse people and organizations, as Sonia had often done, around this common cause.”

To read the full blog please click here: Sonia Shah dreamed of changing the world through girls’ education


Rahmania for Sonia – A Success

Congratulations! ‘Rahmania for Sonia’ was amazing, inspiring and beautiful evening. Over 400 people packed into the rolling Meadows club, which was beautifully decorated with purple color theme for the lights and candles…..purple being Sonia’s favorite color. ‘A girl, A dream, A Mission’ was the tag-line for the night and appropriate to the mission Sonia left behind.
Silent and live auction were very successful with painting “Nukta” being the highlight for the evening. Greg Mortensen showed up as a surprise guest to support Sonia legacy and her mission. The entertainment of choreographed dances on A.R Rahman from Dhrishti Art was superb and kept almost all guests glued to the stage till the end of the program close to midnight.
Thank you for all the messages of praise and outpouring of support since natural viagra Saturday.
Shortly, we will be posting the entire program along with entertainment for people who could not join the event. Please stay tuned for much more to come!


Letter to Sonia Shah by Alanna Peccia

My soul mate Sonia

I can’t believe it’s a couple days away from the first anniversary of your passing. I don’t like that word anniversary, and I’m not particularly fond of passing either. But I know you understand what I mean, darling. I wish I could say not a day goes by without me thinking about you, but I think that happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. I cared about you more than any other person I’ve ever met on this planet, yet there are days I can feel you slipping away from me. It’s unbelievable what time can do, but I have your name right over my heart to keep you with me, even though I got it in the wrong Arabic form, sounds like me. It’s crazy to me all the changes that have happened in the last year, and that I couldn’t call you to tell you about a single one. It breaks my heart that the people I love now, and the people of my future will never meet you. Although I try I visit page feel I can never quite describe just how awesome you were, and that I still feel like the luckiest person in the world that you were my best friend. You’ll always be my best friend, and someone who undoubtedly changed my life in more ways than I have even realized. And although a year has passed, and I am older and you are not, there is a part of me that will always be you and continue to grow in love. Out of all the wonderful things our friendship has taught me the most important is to love totally fearlessly whomever my heart feels I should, because the greatest gift you can give someone is the love of friendship, and that my dear friend is what you gave me.

All my love,


Iram Shah

As we prepare for the big day, I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey. The event committee, the youth leadership council, people who bought tickets (we are sold out), people who donated, people who contributed through their service, words of sympathy and everyone who visited our facebook page and liked it or commented… are all awesome!!
You are all part of this journey of helping to change lives of girls, who will change their communities and eventually our world!
There is no bigger gift than giving hope for a bright future.
For me personally it has been a very emotional but fulfilling journey. Sonia’s legacy and mission continues. Although my dream for Sonia to grow up into a mature woman, get married and have children will never be fulfilled but I guess her dream of helping poor girls is more meaningful than my dream for her! I still long for Sonia but slowly beginning to feel that instead of mourning her death, I should celebrate her life more.
“What moves through me is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, we may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget”.


Human Development Foundation Helping People Help Themselves

The ability of a country to progress and evolve has always been dictated by the education level of BOTH the males and females living within that country. They are pillars that support each other, build upon each other, and grow upon each other. If either is lacking, the country will remain stagnant. Pakistan has a female literacy rate far below even 50%. For females 15 or older, the number has been as low as 30% in recent years.
Pakistan is the 6th most populated country in the word, with 180 million people living in an 800km2 area. It is estimated that by 2040, this number will far surpass 300 million. Add in the fact that Pakistan only spends 2-3% of its GDP on education… and you have a recipe for disaster. Half of the soon to be 300 million people will never even see the inside of a class room. Half of the 150 million that are lucky enough to go to school will receive a poor quality of education. To make matters worse, it is the women of Pakistan that will be discarded first for seats in any type of school. The literacy rate of men in Pakistan is essentially double that of women.
How can we expect Pakistan to strive with these conditions? It is up to us to help bring balance and to bring Pakistan into a new age. As more women receive quality education, the progress Pakistan could make is endless. Sonia Shah understood this simple idea and decided to do something about it. It is up to us to make her dream a reality.


The Dreams of Our Daughters for Our Daughter (By Nabeela Rasheed, PhD)

This past year has highlighted the desperate need for girls education in Pakistan. Much has been written about the incredibly brave, erudite and visionary student activist Malala Yousafzai, since that horrific day in October 2012 when she was attacked for her beliefs in universal education for women. See latest on Malala in the following MSNBC clip . But no amount of bullets, weapons or threats can halt a movement whose time has come. Education for women in Pakistan is not just a wish or abstract idea, it is a fundamental right, it is a social imperative, it is an absolute must.
Gordon Brown, former prime minister of United Kingdom and now United Nations Special Envoy for Education, made an impassioned plea to the international community to make education a higher priority. Indeed, at the beginning of this century, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals included the laudable target of ensuring primary school education for all children by 2015. As that deadline approaches, we learn that there is a £13 billion funding gap to achieve that goal. Furthermore, it turns out that two-thirds of the children in need of that funding live in just ten countries. Prominent amongst those countries is Pakistan. The very place where Malala’s campaign began. So what can be done? We cannot leave the situation as a status quo. Realistically, we also cannot raise that almost insurmountable figure in one go as a community. What we can do is to pool resources. Join a campaign. Be a part of a vision.
In Chicago, that vision has already been created and its wheels have already been set in motion by another brave girl with close ties to Pakistan. Sonia Shah, a very special teenager living with her family in Chicago felt a strong calling to give back to the girls of Pakistan.
Writing during her high school days, she recognized that “nations must be held responsible for the education of their people.” But she also understood that as individuals we can also do our part and not just leave this all-important task to the caprices of “nations” and “governments” and “NGOs”. Instead, she rolled up her sleeves and decided that she would do her part by “starting a girl’s elementary school in … the same village that my grandmother left so many years ago.” With that state goal in mind she set out a full plan on how to achieve some measure of the Millennium Development Goals.
Sonia was an exceptional girl. She completed her education a year early and dedicated a gap year to establishing Sonia Shah Foundation. With this Foundation she planned to provide education to the girls of her grandmother’s village. Speaking 5 languages herself, she planned a bilingual school for girls with a curriculum that would be taught in Urdu and in English. She procured the land , gathered the necessary donations, established the curriculum, began the search for the teachers and oversaw the groundbreaking of the building. And then just as her dreams for the school were about to take flight, her young life was cut short.
Given that there are presently at least 5 million children of both sexes that are in need of education in Pakistan, begs the question, why only a girls school. Gender inequality in education is extreme, even in the western society, girls are less likely to have access to school, remain in school or progress to higher education. It is only through education that women can achieve their economic, political and social potential. As such, education of young girls is an imperative and intrinsic part of any program designed to redress gender-based discrimination against women and girls. It is critical to achieve a basic level of education for girls, because providing this basic right to girls ensures that those girls are later able to secure other rights to which they are entitled. The improved educational opportunities for girls, leads to a better understanding of health, nutrition and family planning as well as alleviating poverty.

While she is no longer with us, Sonia left behind Sonia Shah Foundation, the Foundation that she started to achieve her goals of education and enlightenment for the girls from her grandmother’s village. She committed to the hands of that Foundation the dreams and hopes that she had for the school and for the girls in Pakistan. Beyond providing mere literacy, it was Sonia’s aim to provide the girls with the basic tools they would need to be fully vested and functioning members of a free and enlightened society. As the world settles into the 21st century, it will be through the efforts of Foundations such as the Sonia Shah Foundation that the Millennium Development Goals will be realized.


Sonia Shah Foundation is partnering with The Human Development Foundation (HDF) to implement the project: HDF-Sonia Shah Memorial School in village Kangra, Pakistan. Sonia Shah Foundation and HDF are entities with shared interests concerned with helping disadvantaged people and communities in Pakistan. HDF, combats extreme poverty by “Helping people help themselves.” Their powerful, Holistic Model is comprehensive and is focused on lasting change in 5 key areas – Education, Health Care, Economic Growth, Social Mobilization and Sustainable Environment. HDF development goals are fully aligned with MDGs and HDF continues to work towards its goal of ensuring that by 2015 boys and girls in HDF program areas have the opportunity to complete primary schooling while eliminating gender disparity in the school system.


Malala Yousafzai

Earlier this year, an incident where a 14 year old child was shot by the purveyors of evil rocked the world. We felt rage, shame, and a desire to help these kids who were being forced to keep away from education!

The funds from our event will be dedicated to build schools in the Kangra Village which is merely 140 miles away from the spot where young Malala was shot. By the grace of the powers to be, Malala survived but the dreams of those little girls still hang in the balance and our participation will help keep them alive!

Sonia Shah Foundation is happy to announce that Malala Yousufzai has made a full recovery and left the hospital. The whole world came together in prayers and spirit when this symbol of education was attacked in October. However, there is work to be done to take Malala’s dream forward.

Please help Sonia Shah Foundation in building Schools for young girls in the Kangra village, a mere 100 miles from the place where young Malala was shot.