Major Winnet Zaharare was destined to be a champion for equality. 

Born into a family of five girls and two boys in Mhondoro, Zimbabwe, she was raised with the same expectations in life as her siblings, regardless of gender.

“My parents gave us equal opportunities with my brothers, so I believe that equal opportunities should be given to both men and women in all aspects of life,” says Major Zaharare.

This motivated her to become a fierce advocate for others to enjoy the same right.

In 2006, she joined the Zimbabwe Defence Forces as a 2nd Lieutenant, determined to boost the participation of women in the predominantly male-dominated military sector.

The same aim inspired her to seize the opportunity to join UN Peacekeeping in 2020. 

Today, her efforts are recognized, as Major Zharare becomes the first Zimbabwean to receive the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award for her outstanding efforts to integrate gender perspectives into peacekeeping activities.

In November 2020, Major Zharare was deployed to the Bentiu field office for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as a Military Observer and Chief Military Information Officer.

Seeing firsthand how women are often excluded from decision-making, she immediately launched a plan to help empower them. Major Zharare promoted mixed-gender patrols to build trust, improve protection efforts, and boost community engagement.

She successfully brought together women and men from local communities to farm and build dikes together to alleviate food shortages and prevent further displacement.

She contributed to the increased production of gender-disaggregated data and advocated for gender parity within the mission. She made it a priority to ensure that local civilian and military authorities, as well as community representatives, involved both men and women in meetings with the UN.

Major Zharare expressed her gratitude and pride for being selected to receive the award, which will be presented by Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 26 May.

The Secretary-General has commended Major Zharare: “Major Zharare is a role model and a trailblazer."

“Through her service, she has demonstrated the invaluable role that women play in building trust, advocating for change, and forging peace," he said.

"Her example shows how we will all gain with more women at the decision-making table and gender parity in peace operations.”

The United Nations Gender Advocate of the Year Award recognizes the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles within the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Learn about previous award winners here.