12 July 2013
South Africa’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has been appointed the new head of UN Women, the United Nations body tasked with promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.
Mlambo-Ngcuka replaces Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile, who served as the first executive director of UN Women, or the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. Bachelet stepped down a few months ago.
Announcing the appointment on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Mlambo-Ngcuka brought to the position a wealth of experience in advocating for women’s issues, combined “with a combination of strategic leadership, consensus building and hands-on management experience”.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, 57, served as South Africa’s first woman deputy president from 2005 to 2008, having served as deputy trade and industry minister from 1996 to 1999 and minerals and energy minister from 1999 to 2005. She was elected to Parliament in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
Among her many activities, Mlambo-Ngcuka established the Umlambo Foundation in 2008 to provide support to schools in impoverished areas in South Africa through mentorship and coaching for teachers and in Malawi through school improvements with local partners.
South African President Jacob Zuma congratulated Mlambo-Ngcuka on Thursday, saying her appointment was recognition “not only of her contribution to the advancement of women in South Africa, but also an acknowledgement of the considerably influential and progressive role that South Africa and its people continue to play in the global affairs”.
UN Women was established in July 2010 by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly to oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights.
It is tasked with helping member states to implement standards, providing technical and financial support to countries which request it, and forging partnerships with civil society.
Within the UN, it holds the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.