South African Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka is the new executive director of the U.N. Women. She replaced Chilean presidential candidate Michele Bachelet, who resigned in March. Photo by: Benedikt von Loebell / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

South African politician Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka will replace Chilean presidential candidate Michele Bachelet as head of U.N. Women, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced on Wednesday.

Mlambo-Nguka, former deputy president under Thabo Mbeki (2005-2008), is a known advocate for womens rights and pushed for the government’s anti-AIDS policies to expand treatment, testing and prevention programs at a time when South Africa was still struggling to admit it had a problem with the disease.

The 57-year-old “has proven to be a groundbreaker and a formidable champion for women and girls,” United Nations Foundation president and CEO Kathy Calvin said in a statement.

Mlambo-Ngcuka will replace former Chilean president Michel Bachelet, who resigned in March to seek the same office for the second time in her home country.

The appointment comes as a relief to U.N. gender rights entity, whose deputy executive director John Hendra told Devex in April that a replacement for Bachelet would be picked within three months. Hendra added that U.N. Women continues to grapple with underfunding within the world body’s system relative to other agencies.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

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