Up Close, Students to Talk with Zainab Hawa Bangura Before Commencement

A small group of Ursinus students will have the extraordinary opportunity to sit face-to-face with one of the world’s leading voices working to end violence against women and girls.

Commencement speaker Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone is Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Before addressing the Class of 2014 on Friday, Bangura will meet with the students in a classroom Thursday afternoon. She serves as Chair of the interagency network, UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action) and has over 20 years of policy, diplomatic and practical experience in the field of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa.


Commencement speaker Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone is Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“Despite many setbacks, Ms. Bangura has been a tireless champion of the voiceless victims of war, not only in Africa, but across the world,” says Honorable Joseph Melrose, recently acting ambassador to the UN for Management and Reform and a member of the Ursinus Class of 1966. Melrose was the former ambassador to Sierra Leone. “Our students will have a chance to speak to her in a small classroom setting and ask her their own questions about peacebuilding, human rights and the importance of the rule of law on the international stage particularly as they impact those in the developing world.”

Senior Mercy Gambrah plans to ask Bangura if she believes the Nigerian government is capable of rescuing the abducted girls or if international aid efforts from the U.S. and U.K. are necessary. Gambrah wants to know the best course of action, especially if the acceptance of international aid efforts could further enraged the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Bangura served most recently as Minister of Health and Sanitation for the Government of Sierra Leone, and was previously Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the second woman in Sierra Leone to occupy this position. She was also Chief Adviser and Spokesperson of the President on bilateral and international issues. Ms. Bangura has been instrumental in developing national programs on affordable health, advocating for the elimination of genital mutilation, managing the country’s Peace Building Commission and contributing to the multilateral and bilateral relations with the international community. She has deep experience engaging with State and non-State actors on issues relevant to sexual violence, including engaging with rebel groups.

She has received numerous national and international awards, including the Africa International Award of Merit for Leadership, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship, the Bayard Rustin Humanitarian Award, the Human Rights Award from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award, and the African American Institute’s Distinguished Alumna Award.