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Witsie appointed Thematic Lead at the United Nations

- Wits University

Wits alumna Dr Shakira Choonara takes the reins as the head of the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

Dr. Shakira Choonara

Choonara assumed her new role in March 2024 at the United Nations Women Headquarters. She previously served at the UN as the Thematic Lead on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

 In her new role, she will spearhead efforts to support over 300 partners worldwide in advancing commitments towards women’s health and gender equality, particularly focusing on marginalised populations such as LGBTQI+ communities. Choonara was appointed to her role at the 68th Commission on the Status of Women, where she led a discussion on Feminist Financing for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

“I am honoured and pleased to serve in this role,” says Choonara.

“Growing up, I knew I wanted to work in public health to play a positive role in elevating the patients’ experience. I look forward to working with global partners to advance women’s health.” 

A distinguished Wits University graduate, Choonara has a wealth of experience and expertise in public health. She holds a PhD in Public Health, a Masters in Demography and Population Studies and several other qualifications. She is currently appointed to the second Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, and is a member of the international board for AMREF Health Africa. She previously worked for the World Health Organisation and is a former member of the inaugural African Union Youth Council and AHAIC Commission on universal health coverage in Africa.

“Congratulations to Dr Shakira Choonara on her new appointment," says Professor Tobias Chirwa, Head of School at the Wits School of Public Health. “Her hard work and commitment to public health is the fortitude that we strive to nurture with our students. We encourage her to continue her excellent work for the public good,” adds Chirwa.

Choonara is widely respected for her work on universal health coverage, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health rights, and youth development. In 2017 she was recognised as Woman of the Year in Health and has been listed among Destiny Magazine's Most Powerful Women under 40 in South Africa.