Current Events Archives - Sonia Shah Organization

Celebrating Sonia Shah Organization’s 5th Anniversary

This fall, we are celebrating Sonia Shah Organization’s 5th anniversary! We hope you will join us on September 8th at the Logan Square Auditorium for our very special gala dinner. Performances by artist Aleem (@aleemmusic) and Safina Lavji from the Arthur Murray dance center will entertain and inspire our guests.

Importantly, as we celebrate this milestone, we want to pause and reflect on what we have accomplished as we make progress towards our mission and vision.

Sonia Shah Organization engages, educates and empowers underprivileged girls and women. We envision a world where every girl has a chance to change her life and communities around her through education and training.

In the words of our late founder, Sonia, we are changing the world one girl at a time.


Since our founding, we have built a school in Kangra, Pakistan that educates underprivileged children mostly girls and train women in the Vocational Center. Currently, we have 170 students with 110 girls in Sonia Shah School. Accomplishments include:

  • Free uniforms and medical check-ups for all students
  • Solar panels that generate uninterrupted electricity
  • Smart Boards and computers, and soon, Kindles, for the students
  • A water filtration system for the school and the village

We have open the Sonia Shah Scholarship program for women here in the US, offering university scholarships to women who are unable to fund their higher education otherwise. So far we have awarded 4 college scholarship for young women attending community and private 4-year college

Girls at Sonia Shah School


As a nonprofit organization with no full-time employees and a lean operation, we are thrilled to have reached this 5th-anniversary milestone. We are entirely run on the support of our donors and hope that people who value justice and women’s rights will come to celebrate at our gala in September with us.

We will continue to work tirelessly to educate girls in Pakistan and here in the US, promoting literacy, professional skills, and gender equality — now and for years to come.

We are thrilled to celebrate the Organization’s progress with you at our Gala this September and hope that you will join us in a night of music, dancing, food , nd revelry as we make progress towards achieving our goals of education and empowering women both in Pakistan and here in the US. Get your tickets HERE.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our email newsletter HERE, to stay up to date with the Organization.



Sonia Shah School clear of dengue fever — so far

By Karin Ronnow | Sonia Shah Organization | 13 Sept., 2017

As the spread of dengue fever reached has reached epidemic proportions in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, Sonia Shah School officials are working hard to prevent spread of the mosquito-borne virus.

“All students and staff are clear so far,” Mahnaz Ishaq, volunteer operations director, said Wednesday.

Dengue virus is transmitted by bites from infected female mosquitos, which breed in standing water. The best preventative measure is to kill the Aedes aegypti mosquitos and their eggs.

“I just spoke with the village,” SSO president and chair Iram Shah said Wednesday. “The government is spraying in the village, including the Sonia Shah School. We are also testing our staff. So far all clear. Apparently, it is spreading in the city of Peshawar [the provincial capital] faster than in the village. We are keeping a close eye, especially on the women.”

Dengue’s symptoms — including high fever (40°C/104°F), severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands and/or a rash, — typically last two to seven days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, if it evolves into severe dengue, aka dengue hemorrhagic fever, patients can experience respiratory distress, severe bleeding, organ impairment and death.

In some regions of Pakistan this year, severe dengue “has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults,” the WHO reports.

Since there is no cure, early detection and proper medical care are key to keeping death rates down.

More than 2,000 dengue cases in Pakistan have been lab-confirmed in Pakistan as of this month. Of those, 1,279 are in KP, according to a WHO Sept. 3 report. The disease has already killed 20 people in the province and an additional 666 people were infected in KP just this past weekend.

“The current situation needs to be responded [to] with a sense of urgency,” WHO has warned. “Dengue fever … [is] difficult to control.”

More than half, 52 percent, of confirmed cases in KP have been among adults age 25 to 64; followed by 29 percent among teenagers and young adults (15-24); 16 percent among children (0-14); and 3 percent among people over age 65.

A WHO dengue investigation in Peshawar in August found a “huge number” of uncovered water containers at houses and workshops; 80 percent of water samples tested positive for the virus. Dengue is typically found in tropical and sub-tropical climates, most commonly in urban and unplanned semi-urban areas.

The KP government’s effort thus far includes massive insecticide-spraying campaigns (fumigation prevents mosquito eggs from turning into larvae) and health workers going house to house to warn about standing water and distribute mosquito repellant.

KP Health Services has advised all school and college students to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and apply insect repellent to their hands and feet, The Express Tribune reported. Schools should also treat or drain all standing water — in drainages, water air coolers and even flower vases — in and near schools; hold daily dengue-awareness sessions in schools; and suspend morning assemblies since mosquitos usually bite in the two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset.

Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics according to the WHO. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries, with at least 390 million infections per year and 3.9 billion people at risk.

“The global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades,” the WHO reports. “About half the world’s population is now at risk. … Not only is the number of cases increasing as the disease spreads to new areas, but explosive outbreaks are occurring.”

In KP province, this week’s seasonal rains have not helped.

“Our efforts have been flushed away and we expect an increase in dengue cases,” Peshawar’s Deputy Commissioner Saqib Raza Aslam said. “Mercury levels have also dropped post rain, which is a catalyst for the egg-to-larvae process of a mosquito’s life cycle.”

However, he added, “We have not lost hope and will double the efforts involved to avoid another outbreak.”

Iram Shah with President Jimmy Carter

A Tribute to President Jimmy Carter’s Legacy of Humanitarianism by Iram Shah

Our president, Iram Shah recently dedicated her time to Habitat for Humanity alongside former president Jimmy Carter! At the start of a recent conference call set to strategize, plan, and dream our growth, she could not help but gushed over her time and his wise words.

She wrote an article to share her experience,

“Watching the President at 92 standing in the sun with temperature over 80 degree Fahrenheit cutting wood for over 8 hours, I could not help but wonder is it his resilient body or his heart that keeps him going. You can not underestimate the power of heart. It wins again and again!”
Iram Shah with President Jimmy Carter

Read the entire article here, originally published on LinkedIn.


Meet our mother-daughter ambassadors to Women’s March on Washington

By Karin Ronnow, Sonia Shah Organization | 20 January, 2017

When Monica Rezman and her 14-year-old daughter Ruby Writer arrived at the National Mall in Washington D.C., Thursday, one day before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, they were taken aback by the disturbing language and visuals all around them.

“Tough day on the mall,” they wrote to Sonia Shah Organization (SSO) Thursday night. “Can’t wait for women to come and take over this city.”Scenes from the Women's March on Washington

They sent a photo of two men wearing red T-shirts with “Donald Trumps Hillary” on the front, and “The Witch is Dead” on the back.

They photographed trucks plastered with posters proclaiming “End Planned Parenthood: Endangered Species,” and “We Must Obey God Rather Than Men,” ironically juxtaposed with “Defy Tyrants” above a photo of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989), the deceased religious and political leader who made Iran an Islamic republic. 

Scenes from the Women's March on WashingtonScenes from the Women's March on Washington

“At a time so low and scary in our country and its government, I feel that you can’t just sit at home, lock your doors, and wait for the day that the sun comes back out, because that won’t happen unless we all do something,” Ruby said.

She and her mom, who live in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood and teamed up with SSO this past summer, volunteered to be SSO’s “ambassadors” to Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

Ruby Writer and friend at the Women's March on WashingtonThey will be among the hundreds of thousands expected to participate in what the Guardian (UK) described as “an extraordinary display of dissent on the president’s first day in office”; a march of support for the preservation of human rights and social justice amid President Donald Trump’s discriminatory remarks and proclaimed policy agenda

“Over 200,000 known people will be attending and that is only the number that have signed up with the organization,” Ruby, an eighth grader at the Pulaski International School of Chicago, said before heading to Washington this week. “I feel it will be full of many different types of people: races, genders, religions.

“Overall, I expect a group of people of all different identities who accept each other. Which is exactly why I think this event is so important; to spread the acceptance of all different people,” she said.

“I feel that you can’t just sit at home, lock your doors, and wait for the day that the sun comes back out, because that won’t happen unless we all do something.”

The Women’s March on Washington is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations in American history. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech, has long held the record for the largest demonstration in the nation’s capital, according to PBS. Roughly 250,000 gathered that August day to protest “the injustice and inequalities black Americans faced because of the color of their skin.” 

This is not the first protest march for the mother-daughter duo. Monica, 58, a painter/sculptor whose abstract work addresses concepts of female identity, beauty and adornment, said Wednesday, “I protested when I was a child against the Vietnam War and throughout my adulthood for pro-choice issues [and] women’s rights, along with two marches supporting the Chicago Public School unions and teachers.”

Ruby, who was by her side at several of those events, said she sees this march a little differently.

Ruby Writer at a march supporting the Chicago Public School unions and teachers“I’ve been thinking a lot about this march in the days leading up to it, and I have come to a conclusion that I strongly disagree with some individuals saying that it is a ‘protest,’ because I feel that saying that gives even more attention to what’s wrong,” she said. “So instead of participating in this event to ‘protest,’ I am participating to support women and all minority groups in the nation, and in fact, the whole world.” 

Monica and Ruby contacted SSO late last summer, just before its annual fundraiser at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Ruby, deeply moved by the documentary “Girl Rising,” had “organized four showings at her school and spoke to the community about the importance of educating girls around the world,” he mom said. 

The teenage activist also raised $600 for girls’ education. When she heard Sonia’s mother, Iram Shah, on the radio, SSO’s story resonated with her own awakening to “how necessary and life changing [education is], for not only the one girl’s life, but for the entire world and its society,” Ruby said this week.

“Sonia’s story really resonates with me because I feel as if I can compare to her. We’re both young, driven, privileged girls, fighting for what I like to think we both feel as a fundamental right: education. Also, fighting for women’s rights in such a male-dominated world pushes me to feel even more passionate about this case, much like Sonia did.”

Saturday’s rally begins at the U.S. Capitol, followed by a march along an as-yet undisclosed route. The 10 a.m. start time coincides with the traditional National Prayer Service for the new president at the National Cathedral.

Stay tuned for more news from the Women’s March on Washington!