Winnie Byanyima Quits Oxfam to join UNAIDS

  • by Jane Nantale
  • August 15, 2019

UNAIDS has announced the appointment of Ms Winnie Byanyima as their new Executive Director after leaving her job at Oxfam where she has been serving in the same role.

In a statement, UNAIDS noted: “UNAIDS warmly welcomes the appointment of Winnie Byanyima as its new Executive Director. Ms Byanyima has more than 30 years of experience in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement. ”

On her part, the former outspoken Ugandan legislator expressed pleasure for joining the AIDS organisation.

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” said Ms Byanyima. “The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic.”

In the same statement, the organisation notes that the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, appointed Ms Byanyima as the UNAIDS Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General following a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.

Ms Byanyima brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of governments, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the AIDS epidemic around the world, her new workplace believes.

Ms Byanyima has been the Executive Director of Oxfam International since 2013. Prior to that, she served for seven years as the Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme.

Who is Byanyima

Ms Byanyima began her career as a champion of marginalized communities and women 30 years ago as a member of parliament in the National Assembly of Uganda. In 2004, she became the 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 that became an important tool for reducing the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.

She holds an advanced degree in mechanical engineering (in energy conservation and the environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.


In her email to former workmates at Oxfam, Ms Byanyima explained:

“I’ve been asked today by UNAIDS to become its new Executive Director and have accepted the job. As I shared with you before, a number of women’s rights activists, human rights activists and people living with HIV/AIDS encouraged me most strongly to apply and lead the global effort at the UN to fight HIV/AIDS.”

Byanyima who has recently been named among 100 most influential individuals in Africa said she would continue ‘fighting’ closely with her former colleagues to ensure world justice for all.

“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.”