Najma works at the intersection of climate, nature, and social justice in development policy and practice focusing on ideas and solutions that address climate change, fight inequality, and restore nature. She has over two decades of experience in policies and innovations to support a just transition to green economies, championing solutions which embody systems thinking and which cross institutional and disciplinary boundaries. She has recently joined the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP WCMC) as Head of Nature-Based Solutions.
Najma started her career in South Africa, where she studied Environmental and Geographical Sciences at an undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Cape Town and completed her PhD in environmental ethics and education at Stellenbosch University. From her early work on environmental justice and grassroots action in post-apartheid South Africa, she has maintained her long-standing interest in working on nature, climate, and equity in implementing and driving transformative and inclusive approaches to policy and practice globally.
Najma has worked across government, civil society, international development organisations, the United Nations, and academia, including championing policies and innovations for a just and sustainable world at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Development Bank of Southern Africa, the International Labour Organisation, and the Green Economy Coalition. Najma has experience in training and capacity development and regularly lectures at higher education institutes. She writes about and builds awareness of the intersection between social and ecological transformations and is engaged in community- and faith-based climate and ecological action.
She has written extensively on Islam, climate, and ecology. Her recent publications include: “Dismantling the Ecological Divide: Toward a New Eco-Social Contract” (2023), “Normative framework to assess the just transition to a net zero carbon society” (2022), and “Sustainability Transitions in South Africa” (2019).
Najma has been the recipient of leadership awards in climate and nature such as the MAVA Leaders for Nature; and serves on various groups working on climate, development and environment such as the Women Leaders Network of the Africa Europe Foundation. She has been a member of the action research network, WE-Africa, Wellbeing Economies in Africa since 2015 and is a trustee of IFEES, the Islamic Foundation for Ecological and Environmental Sciences, supporting community engagement on climate and ecological action in the UK and globally.
My lived experience in apartheid South Africa has given me a profound understanding of the interlinkages between justice and sustainability, and the need for a deep and systemic change that addresses the roots of the social and ecological crisis. My experiences have not only given me insight into the reality of living with intersecting inequalities in an unjust world, but also the motivation to fight inequality, injustice, and oppression in all its forms.