A global branding and communications leader for non-profits, consumer brands, and arts organizations, Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra has over 20 years of experience in the creation and execution of powerful, results-oriented initiatives that inform, influence, and inspire. Throughout her career she has introduced numerous issues, voices, and brands to mass market audiences.
Currently Integrated Brand Marketing Director at UNICEF USA supporting UNICEF’s global work in 190 countries, Zuhirah has served on a global leadership team to develop a new brand positioning and re-introduce the UNICEF brand to the U.S. market. Zuhirah also leads multi-channel brand campaigns and initiatives for key moments including the iconic Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. Zuhirah was recently shortlisted for an Engage for Good Halo Award and earned UNICEF’s Global Inspire Award for best integrated campaign in 2019.
How did UNICEF USA become so synonymous with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF?
The original “Kids helping Kids” program, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF began in 1950 when children across the United States collected coins in hand-painted milk cartons to help children affected by World War II. Historically, children have gone door to door on Halloween with the signature orange collection boxes, calling out, “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” and it has now evolved into digital program and a month-long celebration of Halloween and giving back. Since its inception, the annual fundraising campaign has raised over $180 million to help UNICEF support children with health care, nutrition, safe water, education, emergency relief and more.
In 1960, President John F. Kennedy declared that, ‘UNICEF has captured the imagination of our people, especially our nation’s children.’ Seven years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed of a proclamation that designated Halloween as National UNICEF Day.
How has UNICEF USA been combating the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Even before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health emergency, UNICEF had rushed six metric tons of medical supplies to the front lines.
UNICEF and partners are leading efforts to ensure the equitable, affordable distribution of up to 1.4 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the world in 2021. UNICEF is also leading on preventative actions in communities, aiding the development of rapid diagnostics and treatments, and to date, UNICEF has delivered hundreds of millions of protective items for health workers along with urgently needed medical equipment and hygiene supplies to fight COVID-19.
UNICEF is also working to get children back to school and in-person learning. UNICEF is providing digital learning solutions for children unable to return to school and UNICEF has drastically scaled up remote learning so children can continue their education no matter where they are. In 2020, UNICEF reached 274 million children with educational resources like digital platforms, television, radio and take-home printed packages. UNICEF continues to work with other government organizations to develop a plan to reopen schools that are not yet open.
As a Director at such a celebrated organization what first sparked your interest in UNICEF USA, and how did you become involved?
I lived in East Africa for two years where I saw first-hand how important and impactful UNICEF’s work was supporting Education, Water and Health programs. Even in the most remote village in Zanzibar, I could find UNICEF medical equipment and scales to support mother and newborn health. It made an indelible impact on me and I feel honored to be able to share that and build support for UNICEF’s global work, here in the US.
What kind of impact or message do you hope the Wonderama and UNICEF USA’s biggest virtual parade in history will have?
That we can have a fun, safe Halloween while making a difference in the world and add “meaning to their Halloween-ing.” Through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, everyone can play a big role in supporting UNICEF’s our work lifesaving work to deliver COVID-19 vaccinates where they are needed most – for communities, healthcare workers and families around the world. And small change can add up to real impact. For instance, just $7 can provide 4 doses of the vaccine to a low-income country.
You have such an opportunity to create change in your position. Is there any advice that you can offer to anyone else who might also want to see change come about?
Get involved in your community and advocate for change. You can learn more about how to support UNICEF or join our growing network of volunteers – with UNICEF Club members starting as young as 13, at www.unicefusa.org.
How do you balance work and family life?
It’s always a challenge but I luckily have a supportive partner and job that puts children first. Also, with fun family-friendly events like the Wonderama Halloween parade, I get to bring my kids along. My daughters are huge supporters of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and proud of the work I do to help children the world over.
What is new for UNICEF for 2022 and beyond?
In addition to delivering vaccines, UNICEF will also be working to support children after the damage COVID-19 has left in its wake, rebuilding health systems, facilitating education, mental health, nutrition, and routine vaccination programs. Our work also continues to support children in crisis globally including in Syria, Haiti, and Afghanistan.