According to the World Food Programme (WFP) 2015 statistics, 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. These figures are scary giving the fact that Africa has the capability to produce food and even export these products to other countries.
Some Africans have taken a special interest in these challenges and have sought ways through which improvement can be made in terms of food production, and which will on the long run kick out hunger from the continent.
In an exclusive interview with Amazon’s Watch Magazine, the Chief Executive Officer, Stop Hunger Now, Mrs Saira Khan, speaks about her passion towards the eradication of hunger, especially among children. She also suggests some approaches through which this feat can be achieved. Except:
In few sentences, please describe the person of MRS. SAIRA KHAN.
Saira Khan is a 52-year-old mother and grandmother who is totally committed to the development of Africa and the well-being of her fellow mankind. She is the type of person who looks a challenge in the eye and says “Bring it On” but also someone who feels deeply about people and believes everyone needs a second chance.
Did you have any fears, growing up as a young girl? What were some of your choice dreams and aspirations?
I grew up in an environment that nurtured me but also taught me to be independent of a young age. Also, my friends were predominantly boys from the neighbourhood so from a young age, I have had respect for the opposite sex but definitely never feared them or thought they were better than me. My dream then was to own an SLK (Mercedes Benz) by the time I was 40 and I did. My dreams are my platform to bigger and better things. I always wanted to lead and I am grateful that I have this opportunity to do so
What is the driving force behind your passion to champion the crusade of eradicating hunger in South Africa and the world?
It’s a personal crusade for me because we produce more food than we can consume yet so many children worldwide go hungry!! I keep asking myself what kind of a society are we that we accept that children go to bed hungry…definitely not my kind of society so I am determined to lead by example and to encourage others to do the same. Being a mother and grandmother myself, I ask myself how I would feel if my own children went hungry. Why would any other mother feel differently? Because they are poor doesn’t mean they don’t think the same way we do. Why not help them and empower them to take charge so that they can look after their own. Educate a man and you educate a man but educate a woman and you educate a community.
How did your profession as a registered nurse contribute to the services you render in South Africa today?
Firstly nursing was a calling like my current job and I think it is the basis on which I continue supporting those who cannot help themselves. Nursing instilled in my leadership skills, compassion and to be fearless without being harmful and this was important as it led me to even bigger and greater things.
As the CEO of Stop Hunger Now, what are some of the challenges you have encountered especially as regards relations with the male gender?
I think the biggest challenge is when they realise that the CEO is, in fact, a woman and that this woman works with unquestionable professional and business ethics. Further, the word NO does not exist in my world and I am totally committed to ending hunger. By linking it to their business needs, they are unable to oppose this but I know that many don’t like being told what to do and how to do it by a woman.
What do you think can be done to curb actions that bring about marginalization along gender lines?
Firstly encourage girls to be self-reliant and treat them to look after themselves and not be stereotyped into thinking she cannot do anything without a male to lead her or by her side. Build their confidence and train them to be self-sufficient whilst helping others. Women tend to grow up believing that only Men can do it!! I am proof that this is not true. Stay true to yourself and do good…it comes back three-fold.
Aside from your routine activities, what are some of the things that Mrs Saira Khan does leisurely?
My little granddaughter is just 20 months old and lives with me so she takes up every spare moment of my time. I love being with her and playing with her and she just brings me immense joy. I also enjoy fast cars and always have so driving around in my ultra-fast E Class Mercedes is good fun and allows me to unwind. I also enjoy swimming and reading romance novels….yes, romance novels.
What new strategies do you think can be employed to totally eradicate hunger in the African continent?
I think we should go back to the old strategies where agriculture and farming played a large role in our lives. This is the only sustainable way or ensuring we end hunger. We need to make farming more “sexy” so that young people aspire to be farmers rather than IT professionals or doctors or accountants…not that we don’t need them too but I believe farming needs to come back and mean more like it did in the “good old” days when your wealth was measured by what you owned in terms of farming. I also think more collaboration and training people about what is beneficial to eat. Hunger is not as big a problem as Malnutrition which kills more people than HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria combined.
What’s the best way for the readers of Amazons Watch Magazine to connect with you (You can include links to your social networks and websites) Optional.
Linked in www.linkedin.com/in/saira-khan-21384b64
I am also an Advisory Board member of the Womens Economic Forum