By Andrew Kunambura
A PAN-African civil society organisation network has presented its 2022 African Woman Pioneer Award to trailblazing Zimbabwean women’s rights campaigner, Thokozile Ruzvidzo, former director of the United Nations Economic Commission ECA’s gender, poverty and social policy division, for her efforts in advancing the social, economic and political status of African women.
Ruzvidzo received the 2022 pioneer award along with two other outstanding Africans, Aya Chebbi, an award-winning feminist and diplomat, and Jean-Bosco Butera, special advisor and chief of staff to the office of the special envoy on women, peace and security at the African Union commission.
The awards were presented yesterday at a biennial ceremony in Addis Ababa, hosted by Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC), in the presence of renowned women’s rights campaigners, business leaders, government officials and gender specialists from across the continent.
GIMAC is a network of African civil society organisations, working to empower women and girls across the continent, particularly through the effective implementation of major regional and international instruments on gender equality.
The pioneer award is bestowed annually to exceptional Africans in recognition of their extraordinary vision, leadership and commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Previous recipients include Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former executive director of UN Women.
The award recognised Ruzvidzo’s commitment to making gender equality and women’s empowerment a core priority across Africa, especially during her 20 years of service to the United Nations, where she combined her deep expertise in discipline and science to introduce an array of pioneering initiatives.
In particular, Ruzvidzo led the development of numerous tools and knowledge products to facilitate timely reporting on the implementation of the commitments made by national governments at the global level.
She was a major force behind organising high-level Africa regional reviews of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development, among others.
Additionally, Ruzvidzo oversaw and headed ECA’s ground-breaking data-oriented initiatives such as the widely-used African Gender and Development Index and the biennial African Women’s Report, which brought the issues of women’s rights, economic empowerment, financial inclusion and social security to the forefront of decision-making in Africa.
Commenting on the award, Edlam Abera Yemeru, acting director of ECA’s Gender, Poverty and Social Policy division, said: “At a time when Africa needs women’s contributions more than ever to move forward resiliently, we continue to build on Ruzvidzo’s legacy to ensure regional efforts recognise the acute gender gaps, and offer responsive interventions that bring meaningful economic, social, academic and political opportunities for every woman, on an equal footing with men.”
In a written letter to Ruzvidzo, Martha Rose Lunyolo Muhwezi, chairperson of the GIMAC Network, congratulated her on being chosen for the award.
She stated: “You have been selected in recognition of your leadership, innovation and bold thinking to advance the state of the women, in particular African women. We are honouring your service at [the] United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, an institution that is contributing to moving the gender equality agenda forward.”
Since its creation in 2010, the GIMAC Network has been working in partnership with ECA on a variety of initiatives, including the development of a tool, modelled around the African Gender and Development Index, to monitor the implementation of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.
Thokozile Ruzvidzo retired from the ECA last year.