Ugandan human rights activist Eng.Winnie Byanyima has quit her job as the Executive Director for Oxfam.
In an email to staff at the international nonprofit group that started in 1942, Byanyima said she had made the difficult decision to leave Oxfam and join another organization.
“I feel torn at the idea of leaving Oxfam. I’ve been so honoured to lead Oxfam over the last seven years,”Byanyima said in the email.
The Ugandan human rights activists told staff at Oxfam that she will always be indebted for the love shown to her at the organization that she has served as boss for seven years but urged them to keep fighting against injustice.
“The world needs Oxfam and all other social justice activists! We’re seeing the ugliness of racism, misogyny, capitalist greed and violence raised around the world. We must fight harder and smarter to build the just world we believe in. We have no time to lose; I am fighting alongside you till my last day. Aluta continua.”
Appointed UNAIDS boss
The development came at a time when the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has appointed Byanyima as the Executive Director for the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS(UNAIDS).
In a statement released on Wednesday, the office of the UN Secretary General said Byanyima had beat fellow candidates to the job.
“Ms. Byanyima brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis for communities around the world. Ms. Byanyima has been the Executive Director of Oxfam International since 2013. Prior to Oxfam, she served for seven years as the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),”the office of the UN Secretary-General spokesperson said.
According to the statement, Byanyima succeeds Michel Sidibe who was appointed as Minister of Health and Social Affairs in Mali.
In her email to staff at her previous job, Byanyima told them that she has personal reasons for joining UNAIDS having lost his brother to AIDS.
“I’m a guardian to children who are HIV/AIDS orphans. Like most other Ugandans, HIV/AIDS has been part of my life and ending it is an extremely important social justice issue, particularly so in Africa where the epidemic is most experienced,” she noted.
Byanyima began her career as a champion of marginalized communities and women over 30 years ago as a Member of Parliament in Uganda.
In 2004, she was named Director of Women and Development at the African Union Commission, working on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, an international human rights instrument which became an important tool towards reducing the disproportionate effect of the HIV pandemic on the lives of women in Africa.
She holds an advanced degree in Mechanical Engineering (Energy Conservation and Environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology, and an undergraduate degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Manchester.
She speaks English, Kiswahili and some French.