By Rebecca Turkington


Secretary Ban Ki-Moon appointed Zainab Hawa Bangura as the first ever United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2012. She brings to the position a distinguished career and 20 years of experience in politics, women’s rights advocacy and conflict resolution in her country of Sierra Leone where she held the position of Minister of Health and Sanitation as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Unless you invest in women, you will not have the change that we need in Africa. It is the women who will bring the change. And I think that is the reason why, we see them as victims, but we should also see them as survivors. 

Zainab Bangura is an experienced civil society, human and women’s rights campaigner and democracy activist. She has championed causes such as the elimination of genital mutilation, female empowerment, the fight against corruption and health care reform in Sierra Leone. In 1994 she formed her country’s first women’s rights group, Women Organized for a Morally Enlightened Nation (W.O.M.E.N), and she was the first woman to run for the presidency in 2002.

Women are the fabric of society that holds the community together, glues it. When you remove them, the society collapses. If you want to rebuild a society, you have to strengthen the women. 

As UN Special Representative, she has been a tireless champion for victims of sexual violence in war across the world, advocating for an end of rape as a weapon of war, and ensuring the voices of women, children and men who are survivors of sexual assault remain part of the conversation at the highest levels.