Winnie Byanyima

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Winnie Byanyima
Winnie Byanyima, directrice executive d'Oxfam international (cropped).jpg
Byanyima in 2015
Born (1959-01-13) 13 January 1959 (age 62)
Mbarara, Uganda
Alma mater University of Manchester
(Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering)
Cranfield University
(Master of Science in mechanical engineering)
OccupationEngineer, politician, and diplomat
Years active1981 – present
Political party Forum for Democratic Change (since 2004)
National Resistance Movement (until 2000)
Spouse(s) Kizza Besigye

Winifred Byanyima (born 13 January 1959), is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She is the executive director of UNAIDS, effective November 2019. [1]


Before that, from May 2013 until November 2019, she served as the executive director of Oxfam International. [2] She has served as the director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2006. [3]


Byanyima was born in Mbarara District in the Western Region of Uganda, a British protectorate at the time. Her parents are the late Boniface Byanyima, one-time national chairman of the Democratic Party in Uganda, and the late Gertrude Byanyima, a former schoolteacher who died in November 2008. [4] Winnie Byanyima attended Mount Saint Mary's College Namagunga in Mukono District. She went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester, becoming the first female Ugandan to become an aeronautical engineer. She later received a master's degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in energy conservation from Cranfield University. [5]

Professional career

Following the completion of her training as an aeronautical engineer, Byanyima worked as a flight engineer for Uganda Airlines. When Yoweri Museveni started the 1981–1986 Ugandan Bush War, Byanyima left her job and joined the armed rebellion. Museveni and Byanyima had been raised together at the Byanyima household as children, with the Byanyima family paying for all Museveni's education and scholastic needs.

Museveni, Byanyima, and her husband Kizza Besigye were combatants in the National Resistance Army (NRA) during that war. Both Byanyima and her husband have since fallen out with the Ugandan president because of his repressive undemocratic rule despite his earlier stated convictions. [6]

After the NRA won that war, Byanyima served as Uganda's ambassador to France from 1989 until 1994. She then returned home and became an active participant in Ugandan politics. She served as a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 Ugandan Constitution. She then served two consecutive terms as a member of parliament, representing Mbarara Municipality from 1994 until 2004. She was then appointed director of the Directorate of Women, Gender and Development at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She served in that capacity until she was appointed as director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at UNDP in November 2006. [7]

Executive Director of Oxfam, 2013–2019

In January 2013, Byanyima was announced as the next executive director of Oxfam International, [8] replacing Jeremy Hobbs. Byanyima began her five-year directorship at Oxfam on 1 May 2013. [9] In December 2017, she announced acceptance of an offer from Oxfam's Board of Supervisors to serve a second five-year term as Oxfam International's Executive Director. [10]

In January 2015, Byanyima co-chaired the World Economic Forum in Davos. She used the forum to press for action to narrow the gap between rich and poor. The charity's research claims that the share of the world's wealth owned by the richest 1 percent of the world population had increased to nearly 50 percent in 2014, whereas 99 percent shares the other half. [11] [12] [13] Oxfam's figures are strongly contested by several economists. [14]

In November 2016, Byanyima was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines, co-chaired by Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland, and Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana. [15]

Executive Director of UNAIDS, 2019–present

Byanyima was appointed as the executive director of UNAIDS [16] in August 2019, by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, following a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board. In her new position she concurrently serves as a United Nations Under-Secretary-General. [17]

In addition to her role at UNAIDS, Byanyima also serves a two-year term as member of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Advisory Council on Gender and Development. [18]

Other activities

Personal details

On 7 July 1999, Byanyima married Kizza Besigye in Nsambya, Kampala. [22] Besigye is the former chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) political party in Uganda. They are the parents of one son named Anselm. Byanyima is a member of the FDC, although she has significantly reduced her participation in partisan Ugandan politics since she became a Ugandan diplomat in 2004. [23] She has five siblings: Edith, Anthony, Martha, Abraham, and Olivia. [24]

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  1. Daily Monitor (3 November 2019). "Besigye joins wife Winnie as she takes charge at UNAIDS". Daily Monitor . Kampala. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  2. Administrator (15 January 2013). "Winnie Byanyima Appointed To Lead Oxfam International". Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. ADB (29 October 2010). "Interview With UNDP Gender Team Director, Winnie Byanyima – "Incorporating Gender Perspective in All Steps of Economic Policy Management Process"". African Development Bank (ADB). Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  4. Conan Businge and Ali Waiswa (13 November 2008). "Byanyima's Wife Dead". New Vision . Kampala. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  5. Oxfam (January 2015). "Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director". Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam). Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  6. Butagira, Tabu (6 May 2011). "Besigye Injuries Disturbing, Says Byanyima". Daily Monitor (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  7. Onyalla, Harriette (29 November 2006). "Byanyima Scoops Top Job". New Vision . Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  8. Kiggundu, Edris (15 January 2013). "Winnie Byanyima To Head Oxfam". The Observer (Uganda) . Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  9. Business, Reporter (6 May 2013). "Income Inequalities Threaten Africa". The Herald . Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  10. "Winnie Byanyima to serve second 5-year term leading Oxfam International, from Nairobi | Oxfam International". Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  11. Larry Elliott, and Ed Pilkington (19 January 2015). "New Oxfam Report Says Half of Global Wealth Held by the Top One Percent". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  12. Wearden, Graeme (20 January 2015). "Oxfam: 85 Richest People As Wealthy As Poorest Half of The World". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  13. BBC Business (19 January 2015). "Richest 1% To Own More Than Rest of World, Oxfam Says". BBC News . Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  14. Vara, Vauhini (28 January 2015). "Critics of Oxfam's Poverty Statistics Are Missing The Point". The New Yorker . Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  15. Secretary-General Appoints Two Former Presidents, 14 Others as Members of High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines United Nations, press release of 19 November 2015.
  16. Daily Monitor (3 November 2019). "Besigye joins wife Winnie as she takes charge at UNAIDS". Daily Monitor . Kampala. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  17. UNAIDS (14 August 2019). "UNAIDS Welcomes The Appointment of Winnie Byanyima As Its New Executive Director". Geneva, Switzerland: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  18. World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development World Bank Group.
  19. Board Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  20. Advisory Board Equality Now.
  21. Members International Gender Champions (IGC).
  22. Tumusiime, James; Nsigaye, Sarah (8 July 1999). "Winnie weds Col. Besigye". The Monitor (189). pp. 1–2.
  23. Raymond Baguma, and Abdulkarim Ssengendo (4 February 2011). "I Cannot Leave Baby Besigye, Says Winnie". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  24. Basiime, Felix (17 November 2008). "Winnie Byanyima Hails Deceased Mother". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014.