Gurira, the new face for gender equality globally

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By Sharon Kavhu

Many know her for her role as Michonne in ‘The Walking Dead’ (2012), a television horror drama series or rather for her role as ‘General Okoye’ in ‘Marvel Studios’ Blank Panther’ movie. 

She has portrayed gender equity roles through her onscreen performances, which shows that women are able to do what men can do in a given society. 

Danai Jekesai Gurira (40), an American of Zimbabwean descent, has won several awards, with the latest being named the face of United Nation’s Women Gender Equality.  

Gurira is the first Zimbabwean Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women. Her new post will see her focusing on supporting gender equality and women’s right as well as ensuring that their unheard voices take centre stage. 

She was elected as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador during the global annual advocacy campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (November 25 to December 10, 2018)

In a statement, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka expressed her pleasure on having Gurira on board. 

“UN Women is delighted to welcome Danai Gurira in her new role as Goodwill Ambassador to support our work on gender equality. As a playwright, actor and activist in pursuit of women’s empowerment and gender equality with her sharp human rights lens, she is uniquely qualified to communicate and inspire. She recognises the challenges of intersectionality and will connect with the diversity of women living on the margins of society,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka 

Gurira’s engagement as a Goodwill Ambassador will help girls from different generations to believe in a positive future, Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

She reiterated that Gurira, as an influential role model in both her personal and professional life and a voice for those who have not yet been heard, is expected to drive action on gender equality in communities across the globe.

Gurira has played characters that are diverse, often flawed, complex and multi-dimensional. She is also a critically acclaimed award-winning writer who works relentlessly to bring the voices of unheard women, often survivors of violence, to the front and centre; and scripts narratives as her act of resistance and solidarity with women’s realities around the world. Through her art, she has become a well-known advocate for women and their diverse perspectives.

In the UN Women statement, Gurira said she was honoured to join the UN Women family and will do her best as a Goodwill Ambassador.

“My passion for women and girls has been my focus in the narratives I create as well as the roles I have been able to play. I have always sought to push the boundaries and tell the stories of those who are often marginalised and unheard. My own advocacy for women and girls has made me deeply aware of UN Women, I have experienced the work of this organisation on the ground as well as internationally, and I am delighted to partner with them to amplify many more stories from around the world, and give a voice to those who are working relentlessly to make gender equality a reality,” said Gurira.

“We are at an urgent time, a time where our participation is crucial to ensure that all women and girls, no matter where they live, where they grow up or where they work, are in a world where their potential can be fully actualised; a world of true equality.”

UN Women Goodwill Ambassadors are prominent individuals from the worlds of arts, sciences, literature, entertainment, sport and other fields of public who wish to work on women’s rights and gender equality and raise awareness of UN Women’s efforts globally. 

Gurira is an award-winning playwright and actress whose select acting credits include the films ‘All Eyez on Me’ (NAACP Image Award nomination), ‘The Visitor’, ‘Mother of George’ and the NYS&F’s ‘Measure for Measure’ (Equity Callaway Award.) She is currently adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book ‘Americanah’ into a mini-series.

As a playwright, her works include ‘In the Continuum’ (2005) (OBIE Award, Outer Critics Award, Helen Hayes Award), ‘Eclipsed’ (2009) (Tony Award Nomination: Best Play; NAACP Award; Helen Hayes Award: Best New Play; Connecticut Critics Circle Award: Outstanding Production of a Play), and ‘The Convert’ (2012) (six Ovation Awards, Los Angeles Outer Critics Award). Her latest play, ‘Familiar’, received its world premiere at Yale Rep in 2015 and premiered in New York at Playwrights Horizons in February of 2016.

She is a recipient of the Sam Norkin Award at the 2016 Drama Desk Awards, a Whiting Award, a Hodder Fellow, and has been commissioned by Yale Rep, Center Theatre Group, Playwrights Horizons, and the Royal Court.

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