“No one is equal until we are all equal.” ~ Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor to Under Secretary-General UN Women; Head  of The He For She Movement

Summary: Elizabeth Nyamayaro is Senior Advisor to Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. Ms. Nyamayaro has worked at the forefront of Africa’s development agenda for more than a decade, helping to improve the lives of under-served populations. She comes to UN Women after serving as Senior Leadership within the Corporate Strategy Office at Merck, the world’s second largest pharmaceutical company, working in support of the company’s on-going efforts to broaden access to medicine in the developing world. Nyamayaro is also the head of HeForShe, a movement founded by UN Women to empower all humans, especially men and boys, to have a voice and take action to achieve gender equality in their own lifetime.

Nationality: Zimbabwean

Industry: Politics & Global Relations

Q: I’m curious about the initial motivation for the HeForShe initiative. In some ways, it seems like the way it’s geared toward men could have the potential to cater to the perceived oppressor? on unwomen-metrony.org

A: In thinking about any other big societal achievement – whether the civil rights movement in the U.S. or anti-apartheid in South Africa – my biggest role model is the head of UN Women, my boss [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka]. She’s a former freedom fighter from South Africa and was instrumental in the anti-apartheid movement alongside Nelson Mandela. One of the things she understood, and one of the things that she taught me, was that it required both the whites and the blacks to work together to end apartheid. It wasn’t one race against the other, it required all races coming together.

We know that these societal achievements have required the engagement of all members of society enthusing for the movement and so we recognize that legit equality isn’t, in fact, a women’s issue – it’s a professional issue, which means it’s a men’s issue, which means it’s an all-gender issue. So how can we, instead of traditional male bashing and seeing them as the problem, engage more than a few good men to want to be part of the solution and create a magnet of solidarity?

HeForShe isn’t about men serving women because women aren’t helpless and they’re not looking to be saved. Rather, it’s about shared responsibility and ownership of the issue. It’s also about acknowledging the power that a mixed gender has, which is that men are mostly in power. So how do we use HeForShe for men to also examine and recognize their own privileges and use them for the best of humanity?