Diza Gonzaga is the volunteer President of the Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga Foundation, an institution she created in May 1996, after having lost her son, Thiago, in a car crash. Formerly an architect, Ms Gonzaga has since become an “expert” in saving lives on the roads: she has published several papers on road safety legislation, education and behavior. As a speaker, she has participated in conferences and events both nationally and abroad, presenting the Foundation’s “Vida Urgente” programme and sharing her knowledge and experience.
As a well-known and respected road safety advocate in her country, Ms Gonzaga has contributed actively to changing road safety legislation in Brazil. For instance, in 1996, she gathered thousands of signatures for the approval of the new Brazilian Traffic Code. In 2006, the Foundation led the movement that precipitated the law prohibiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages in gas stations and parking lots. One year later, Ms Gonzaga handed the Minister of Justice a petition with over 70,000 signatures, demanding a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in roadside facilities. The result was the approval of the Lei Seca (Dry Law) or, as she prefers to call it, the Lei da Vida (Life Law). In its first month, the law is credited with a reduction of 40% in the hospital emergency room admissions across the country.
Invited by the UN and WHO, Ms Gonzaga represented NGOs from Brazil and Latin America in the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Moscow in 2009. During the Second Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety hosted in Brasilia in 2015, she shared the limelight with the former President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff; former WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan; and Make Roads Safe Global Ambassador for Road Safety, Ms Zoleka Mandela, during the Conference’s opening ceremony. For her efforts over more than 20 years, Ms Gonzaga and the Thiago de Moraes Gonzaga Foundation have been awarded numerous prizes, including the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award and the Haddon Award.