She has faced down the Taliban, called on Obama to curtail drone strikes in Pakistan, and dazzled the world with her determination and eloquence.
Malala has inspired people everywhere with her courageous, tenacious campaign for all girls to get the education and opportunities they deserve. The ultimate goal: empowering girls to reach their full potential.
I am among Malala’s many admirers.
So I am especially honored and pleased to announce I am joining Malala’s new foundation, the Malala Fund, as its director of operations and communications. This is my first week on the job. I remain NY-based.
I am working with a phenomenal team, including Malala, her amazing father, Ziauddin, and the Malala Fund’s fabulous CEO, Shiza Shahid. Our superb advisers: Google’s Megan Smith, McKinsey’s Lynn Taliento, and GATHER’s Simon Isaacs.
My move to Malala’s foundation comes as a surprise to all involved – unimaginable even a few weeks ago.
The back story
While I have known of Malala for several years, I, like many people, first began following her closely just after she was shot by the Taliban in October 2012.
The millennial-focused digital video news network I helped launched and lead, NowThis News, was among the countless news outlets reporting on Malala’s struggle. But NowThis News went far beyond the usual reporting by providing a special section dedicated to Malala for many months, tracking her recovery, her cause and her re-emergence on the global stage. Malala and her righteous mission resonates especially intensely among young people around the world. NowThis News’s frequent and voluminous reporting on Malala garnered huge viewership.
Given the keen interest in Malala and the absence of any one place for people to keep up to date on her, my NowThis News colleagues and I decided to create a one-stop information source for all things Malala – a website and associated social media sites provided as a public service to the world. We teamed up with U.N. organizations and other NGOs to make it happen.
We ran into a few obstacles along the way, including unsavory characters who controlled the Malala.org domain name and the @Malala Twitter handle. The domain name was being held for ransom, and the Twitter handle had been used for years for illicit purposes.
My NowThis News colleagues and I wouldn’t take no for an answer in our quest to obtain the domain and Twitter handle. So we paid a hefty premium for the domain name and convinced Twitter to seize the @Malala handle and give it to us, with our plan being to give the domain and Twitter handle to Malala when she was ready to take possession of them (now done).
Fast forward to November 2013, when Malala told CBS News she intended to go to the Mideast to try to help Syrian refugee children get back to school. Because I have a long history and many contacts in that region, I volunteered to help the Malala Fund with her planned Mideast trip. That outreach brought me into contact with Malala Fund CEO Shiza Shahid, remarkable herself in many ways, who welcomed my assistance.
Shiza and I quickly planned and last week carried out a trip to Jordan with other NGOs to get a first hand understanding of the challenges facing Syrian refugee children – an alarming reality, with hundreds of thousands of Syrian kids in neighboring countries living in dreadful conditions and no longer in school.
In recent days, as Shiza and I got to know each other, and as I learned more about the Malala Fund’s plans, I offered to commit myself full-time to the Malala Fund – an offer Shiza accepted.
I could not be more pleased to be part of this noble cause.
How you can help
Expect big things from the Malala Fund – goals we hope to achieve with your help. I’ll be calling on many of you, asking for your advice, assistance and support. And don’t be shy about volunteering and offering suggestions.
You can reach me at this new email address: Eason@MalalaFund.org
In closing, for inspiration and to underscore why I’m so excited to be joining Team Malala, I urge you to read this from PolicyMic: 12 Reasons Why Malala Rocked 2013.
Please join us at MalalaFund.org.