Tonderai Chikuhwa '96

2009 Charles J. Turck Global Citizen Award

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In a literal sense, Tonderai Chikuhwa’s upbringing was global. His father, hailing from what was then called Rhodesia, met and married his mother in Ukraine, and the family settled in Sweden. Chikuhwa attended the United World College in Swaziland, then majored in political science and international studies at Macalester, where he received the Internationalism Award for 1996. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in political science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

In 1999, Chikuhwa accepted a position in the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict at the United Nations. He spent years in the field as a child protection advisor in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Liberia, going into the bush to negotiate with commanders and persuade children to lay down their AK47s. He secured the release of nearly 3,000 children conscripted into the armed forces or rebel armies.

Chikuhwa is presently based in New York as senior program officer in the United Nations Office for Children and Armed Conflict. He advocates with the countries of the Security Council for stronger protection measures for children in such places as Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, and Colombia, and is working to implement a global mechanism to monitor and report on grave child rights violations in these and other conflict zones. He is driven by his personal encounters with children ravaged by warfare. As he says, "Once you have been with the children, it is not possible to turn your back on them."