Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was made head of UN Women on Wednesday, after former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet stepped down to pursue another presidential bid.
Mlambo-Ngcuka (57) was deputy president of South Africa under Thabo Mbeki between 2005 and 2008.
Bachelet stepped down in March from UN Women, a body for gender equality and the empowerment of women created in 2010.
"Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka brings to this position a wealth of experience in advocating for women's issues, with a combination of strategic leadership, consensus building and hands-on management experience," UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.
Mlambo-Ngcuka became an MP in South Africa in 1994, becoming deputy minister in the department of trade and industry two years later, and then energy minister in 1999. In 2005, she became the first woman to hold the position of deputy president, the highest office occupied by a woman in South Africa. She remained in the post until 2008.
Before her political career, Mlambo-Ngcuka was the first president of the Natal Organisation of Women, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front. The aim of the organisation, founded in 1983, is to increase women's empowerment and promote women's rights. In 2008, she established the Umlambo Foundation to support schools in poor areas of South Africa through mentoring and coaching for teachers.
She is expected to take up her position at UN Women in August. – Reuters; Guardian News & Media 2013