Fatima grew up on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, with her parents and four siblings, where she later became an anti-apartheid activist during her high school years in the tumultuous 80’s. She explains that activism led her to her first degree at the University of Western Cape, then known as the ‘Bush University’ or the ‘intellectual home of the left’. Fatima earned a scholarship for a Master’s Degree in international peace studies at Notre Dame University in the USA and later achieved another Master’s in International Development at Sussex University in the UK. She has a long history in the development sector, working across civil society, government and donor organisations.
Fatima is currently the Director at ActionAid South Africa and is passionate about women’s rights; in particular, the rights of working class black women. “Even as a young girl I had an intuition about the notion of women’s rights. I believe this was strongly influenced by growing up watching my mom living out the values of feminism, without even knowing the word or its meaning. My mom was one of the first women mini-bus taxi drivers on the Cape Flats in the late 1970’s and today at the age of 70, my mom is still at it! She is an absolute inspiration.”
Fatima loves reading and also enjoys playing squash and running. “I love the fact that I do not have to get in my car to go exercise. I just put on my tekkies and out the door I go. Besides the good it does for my physical health, it’s also a great way to clear my head and manage stress. A long run always helps me generate many crazy ideas.”
She is thrilled to be running the Two Oceans Marathon because Cape Town is her home— the city of her childhood and heart. “The fact that the marathon has transformed from an almost all-white, all-male race when it first started, to the diversity of what it is now, makes it a very special race. It represents the possibility of a diverse and united South Africa which is especially significant in a city as polarised as Cape Town.”
Asked why she is taking up the challenge to run the Two Oceans for team ActionAid South Africa, Fatima says “We turned to some ActionAid ambassadors to help us raise funds for our important work with young women, so I figured that I must do what I ask of others.”
Fatima explains that it is ActionAid South Africa’s mission to support young women in leading efforts for the change they want to see.
“As someone who too once was a young woman growing up on the Cape Flats, I know from my own lived experience the challenges the context poses, and how the odds are stacked against young women. For this reason, our women’s rights work is very close to my heart. Young women living in urban poverty today represent the single biggest demographic in our country, yet their voices, dreams and aspirations of remain largely invisible. I believe that young women have the potential to change our world if they are supported in the right manner.”