Saira Banu Khan, the CEO of Rise Against Hunger: Africa, can be described as a dynamic, highly competent and strategic person with technical experience in both corporate and NGO sectors.
The 53 year old proud grandmother started her career as a registered nurse in 1985, and moved into the corporate arena in 1990, where she held a number of key leadership roles in the medical health insurance arena. She went further for a master’s degree in 1992.
Speaking to a correspondent of Inside Business Africa, Saira Khan recounts the reason behind her move from the corporate sector to the NGO. “18 years ago,my son was in a car accident. This made me revaluate who I was. I decided to start an NGO, for women who had no resources, but shared the same pain as me”. Many years later, Saira successfully runs the Rise Against Hunger South Africa, as she dedicates her life to poverty alleviation initiatives. Her passion lies in finding solutions to tackle the many issues plaguing marginalized communities in Africa, travelling widely to African countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the likes, while committing to development as a sustainable tool towards eradicating hunger in the world.
Describing the challenges she faces as a high-ranking female executive with responsibilities, Saira is quick to express the most arduous challenge to be patriarchy. “I travel a lot, and as a woman, the biggest challenge I face is patriarchy. Unfortunately, we live in a patriarchal society where men are supposedly meant to hold power and women are excluded from it”. She described women leaders as “just as good” as the male because women are more detailed and have some strength that can be brought into leadership.