Justice and equality are at the heart of what drives Alia Kajee. The technical advisor on climate change believes that there can never be environmental justice without social and economic justice. Kajee says the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep-rooted, systemic crises and social ills.
Her work as a civil society activist has seen her behind a drive that has distributed food parcels, vouchers or money to people who most need it during this time without trampling on their dignity. She believes that it is important to stand up for others and support a just cause even if you stand to benefit nothing.
Looking back and considering what advice she would offer to her younger self, she would say,
“To always stand up in solidarity with those who are at risk of losing, not to divert or distract away from the struggle at hand, but because gains won through collective action are for all and not a privileged few.”
She learnt this when 10 years ago, as a privileged university student, she supported student protests against fee hikes and living costs from afar. She later learnt that her support and solidarity would have meant more if she had been part of the protest,supporting the demands of the students and taking a stand.
Her efforts have involved work with underprivileged high school learners, offering them mentorship, leadership skills and getting them bursaries to standing up against injustices to mining communities to climate justice to fighting patriarchy. She is modest about the role she plays in society and says she owes her success to the people who have enabled her to do the work needed.
“I am ever-inspired by collective actions towards a collective vision, and to excel at something that is beyond myself is motivation,” she says.