Suraya “Bibi” Khan
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of Suraya Bibi Khan
Suraya Bibi Khan has a keen sense of justice that has seen her fighting for just causes in South Africa and internationally. Born in 1952 at a time when racial equality was unheard of in South Africa, Khan grew up fighting for equality and justice for all. Her motto in life is that one should live by the courage of one’s conviction. She demonstrated this conviction in 2003 when she joined a group men and women who went to Iraq as human shields against American civilian bombings in Iraq. This led to a similar humanitarian role in Palestine with the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance.
During her long and inspiring career, Khan has dedicated her life to empower communities at grassroots level by raising awareness about their rights and motivating them to become agents of their own development.
She has worked in the NGO sector since joining the Development Resource Centre (DRC) - an international voluntary organisation aimed at creating an enabling environment for NGOs - at its implementation phase as head of administration and finance. She has also worked for Public Services International a global union federation of public sector trade unions representing millions of working people throughout the world. Khan has also worked for the South African Grant Makers Association and the South African NGO Network, better known as SANGONeT.
In 1991, Khan was elected to the executive of the Lenasia Civic Association, which was part of the Civic Association of Johannesburg. From 1995 and 1997 she was also involved in capacity building of civil society groups that assisted communities in understanding the importance of active participatory developmental democracy.
Between 1992 and 1994, Khan was involved in initiating the Lenasia Community Police Forum in which she was elected to serve. Between 1990 and 1999, she mobilised women from Lenasia to establish feeding schemes for five primary schools providing hot meals once a week to about 1 500 children in need.
In 1993, Khan was part of the consultative process for the establishment of the Women’s Institute for Leadership, Development and Democracy. She also assisted with the Call of Islam, a Lenasia group that fought for justice of 11 workers killed in a factory fire in 2001.
Since 2004, she has worked with South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID), an independent South African women’s platform committed to improving the status of women by engaging with government, the private sector and NGOs.