Khoja aid strategist shortlisted for prestigious bravery award


The Khoja CEO of a Muslim Mission in Kenya has been recognized for his courage by a global award program.

Murtaza Jaffer was a finalist for the Mary Chirwa Award for Courageous Leadership 2019,
based on his work in legal aid, human rights and development in Bilal.

The award program is run by the Nudge Global Impact Challenge Foundation in the Netherlands.

Mr. Jaffer is CEO of the Bilal Development Program and Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya. He is a former Policy Coordinator and Special Assistant to the Chief Prosecutor at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a former High Court judge in Kenya and was the aid strategist for NOVIB, Netherlands.

Iconic role model

He was nominated for being “a role model, iconic, and a symbol of a sustainable development strategist who considers all of the environmental, cultural, social and economic aspects of development for rural villages of Africa.”

The Mary Chirwa Award recognizes people who show “integrity and fearlessness and have acted on, or initiated a movement, to bravely face a challenge related to the achievement of one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Mr. Jaffer’s work meets all the following SDGs: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequalities, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, Partnerships for the Goals.

“We would like to congratulate and appreciate Murtazabhai for his dedication on the upliftment of our poor brethren in the centers,” the Bilal Relief Program said.

Mr. Jaffer retired from his UN position and now dedicates his time to create sustainable development for the rural communities of South East Kenya.

Legal advice in the slums

Born in Zanzibar to a family whose ancestors migrated more than a century ago from India, Mr. Jaffer moved to Mombasa at a very young age. After graduating from Dar es Salaam Law School, he went to the Kibera slums in south Nairobi and offered his professional legal advice to those who had never had such legal support in their life. He is a former CEO of the NGOs Council in Kenya and on the Board of Kitu Cha Sheria, the oldest legal aid organization in East Africa. He also sits on the Board of the Centre for Governance & Development in Nairobi.

Later, he joined the NOVIB as Somalia country manager. He has worked on human rights and development issues in more than 20 African countries. His main focus with NOVIB (now Oxfam Netherlands) was to develop grassroots human rights organizations in Somalia and build self-reliance capacities for rural communities in the context of a failed State.

What makes Mr. Jaffer so special is his strategic and long-term development plan. He works with local people to change the mindset that keeps them in poverty, and provides them with entrepreneurial skills. He also focuses on building local staff capacity for institutional sustainability.

Business incubator

He has helped change the entire charitable face of the Bilal relief program to be an incubator and accelerator for business ideas and opportunities that local villagers may suggest. Giving them mentorship, micro-finance, offering them training, integrating them into business networks and as such, has had tremendous outcomes for more than 40 villages he is working with.

Whilst working out of the Bilal Mission structure, his work extends to supporting the larger community irrespective of religion or sect. People from every ethnicity and religious background are benefiting from these services. Meantime the core function of strengthening the spiritual values that drive all the Bilal programs continues apace.

He has faced resistance from old-school minds whose understanding of charity work for decades has been the building of religious centres and supply of free food to people. But the more projects that are running and the more young people who are joining the entrepreneurial projects initiated by Mr. Jaffer, the greater the faith his work earns from these local doubters.

Multiple powerful campaigns

His key achievements in the past five years include:
• Turning an old madrasa in Mtongwe, Mombasa, into an educational center for renewable energy and farming. All the services are free of charge for teenagers and young people.
• Installing four solar water desalination systems in remote villages of Kenya to provide affordable drinking water and irrigation. Creating a farming community in these villages and helping them learn modern methods to grow crops and how to market their products.
• Running a campaign on supply of sanitation pads for girls to keep them safe in school.
• Running anti-jigger and other health campaigns.
• Establishing LiveGoat projects to support single mothers and widows in the rural villages of Kenya.
• Supporting religious Sheikhs in the villages to learn professions such as welding, piping, farming and to provide service to their fellow villagers.
• Finding the best local success stories among the villagers and making them role models for others.
• And the list goes on …

Mr. Jaffer’s community is immensely proud that he reached the shortlist of such a prestigious award.

Greek priest is winner

The winner of the Mary Chirwa Award for Courageous Leadership 2019 was announced this week as Greek priest Father Antonios. He was recognized for supporting Syrian and African children refugees washed ashore on his island.

Mary Chirwa is the Director General of the Financial Intelligence Centre in Zambia and the award in her name recognizes her brave dedication to the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorism financing in her country under difficult circumstances.


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