Paula Donovan


Paula Donovan is the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World. Before co-founding AIDS-Free World in 2007, Paula Donovan served as senior advisor to the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from 2003 to 2006. Between 2000 and 2003, she was posted in Nairobi as UNICEF regional advisor on HIV/AIDS for eastern and southern Africa, and then as UNIFEM's Africa-wide gender and AIDS advisor. Ms. Donovan worked for UNICEF at its international headquarters throughout the 1990s; she started her work in international relations as director of communications at the US Committee for UNICEF in the late 1980s. The uncompromising application of feminist analysis is the common theme of all the projects led by Ms. Donovan throughout her career. One of her early roles at UNICEF was to manage the communication and global advocacy for the joint UNICEF/World Health Organization campaign to end the illegal promotion of infant formula and protect women’s rights to breastfeed. In 2003, she independently organized Africa’s first all-women long-distance road race, the "International Women's AIDS Run," in Nairobi, which raised awareness of women’s HIV care-giving roles and became an annual event. Ms. Donovan was the first to call for a UN agency devoted to women. Her 2006 position paper, Gender Equality: Now or Never, set out the need and the rationale for the agency; it became a key document in the advocacy effort to have an agency created. UN Women was ultimately established in 2011. Among her accomplishments with AIDS-Free World, Paula Donovan forced the World Health Organization to re-examine the connection between contraceptive injections and the transmission of HIV; forced UNICEF to abandon a dangerous and ill-conceived HIV scheme called “The Mother-Baby Pack”; successfully demanded UNAIDS, WHO, and UNICEF stop the use of single-dose Nevirapine; championed the quest for justice for Zimbabwean women raped during the elections of 2008; joined the fight to overcome child marriage by making it an issue of child labour; and initiated and led the campaign of eliminating immunity for sexual violence committed by UN peacekeeping personnel. Paula Donovan holds a master’s degree in Corporate and Political Communication from Fairfield University.