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African Feminism, Environment, Feminism

Sajida Khan: 1952-2007 – Death of an Eco-Feminist

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A tribute to Sajida Khan, who fought against global capitalism at the continent’s largest rubbish dump – a fight that cost her life. Sajida was a key activist against carbon trading and died as a direct result of the toxins emitted from illegal medical waste in an incinerator and waste from a nearly paper mill and sugar factory on her doorstep. The landfill site will continue to emit toxins for the next 27 20 years.

Below is the Google Earth rendition showing the landfill and the surrounding houses in Durban including her family’s.

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Sometimes when lives are judged by visual victories, we see failures, and after all, the dump remains right outside Sajida’s front door after her 14 year fight. But on the other hand, if a life is judged by a legacy that endures and is built upon, hers is one of multiple larger victories: of a woman standing against male domination of nationalist politics, of knowledge about global capitalist ecology over amnesia, of ordinary people harnessing the most incredible forms of expertise so as to enter forums usually dominated by people with multiple degrees, and of a political ecology that is a politics of all the people. Whatever you might say about her race and class privilege, the final denominator is that she’ll die fighting the cancer infection, and fighting the dump that gave her that cancer. This was not a death of privilege, it was murder Patrick Bond and Rehana Dada [Ashwin Desai]

The government had repeatedly broken it’s promise to close the dump and the practice continued unchecked in the post Apartheid period. In 1996 a landfill in Umhlanga, white suburb in the north of Durban, began closing down. And where did the waste previously destined for Umhlanga go? To Bisasar Road.

According to Carl Albrecht, research director at the Cancer Association of SA,

‘Clare Estate residents are like animals involved in a biological experiment.’

Sajida Khan documented 70% of Bisasar Road households with tumor cases, not to mention severe respiratory problems. Bisasar Road toxic dumps are replicated across the continent and no one knows how many poor people, many unaware of the dangers of the air they breathe, have died and continue to die from this practice.

Sources:
see CCS also for an interview with Sajida and more on her work as an eco-feminist activist.

“Trouble in the Air: Global Warming and the Privatised Atmosphere” A Civil Society Energy Reader edited by Patrick Bond and Rehana Dada.

Links: South Africa: Durban’s perfume rods, plastic covers and sweet-smelling toxic dump

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2 Comments

  1. Sadja Khan was a great woman who made a huge difference in the lives of women in Africa and who fought relentlessly against vices placed in relation to the continent’s environment. one love. her soul and impact lives on!

  2. Sajida Khan is a legend; her works, her passion caused her her life. She’s worth emulating