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Winifred Byanyima (born 13 January 1959) is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat.
She is UNAIDS' executive director, and she takes over UNAIDS as of November 2019.
Following a rigorous selection process that involved a search committee established by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, she was appointed to the post in August 2019.
She also serves as a United Nations Under-Secretary General from May 2013 to November 2019, a former UN Undersecretary General.
She has been the head of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2006.
Byanyima married Kizza Besigye in Nsambya, Kampala, on July 7th. 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, however she has significantly reduced her participation in partisan Ugandan politics since becoming a Ugandan diplomat in 2004. Edith, Anthony, Martha, Abraham, and Olivia have five siblings.
Byanyima worked as a flight engineer for Uganda Airlines after completing her aeronautical engineer training. Byanyima left her job and joined the armed rebellion as Yoweri Museveni started the Ugandan Bush War (1981-1986). Museveni and Byanyima were both children at the Byanyima household, with the Byanyima family paying for all Museveni's education and scholastic needs.
During that war, Museveni, Byanyima, and her partner Kizza Besigye served in the National Resistance Army (NRA). Despite earlier stated convictions, both Byanyima and her husband have since fallen out with the Ugandan president due to his draconian undemocratic rule.
Byanyima served as Uganda's ambassador to France from 1989 to 1994, after the NRA won the war. She returned home and became a vocal participant in Ugandan politics. She served as a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 Ugandan Constitution. She served two terms as a member of parliament from 1994 to 2004, representing Mbarara Municipality in Mbarara Municipality. She was then named head of the African Union's Women, Gender, and Development branch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She served in that capacity until she was named as the head of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Human Resource Policy at UNDP in November 2006.
Byanyima was appointed as the next executive director of Oxfam International in January 2013, succeeding Jeremy Hobbs. Byanyima began her five-year tenure at Oxfam on May 1, 2013. She accepted an invitation from Oxfam's Board of Supervisors to serve a second five-year term as Oxfam International's Executive Director in December 2017.
Byanyima co-chaired the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2015. She used the forum to press for change to narrow the gap between wealthy and poor people. According to the charity's study, the share of the world's wealth held by the richest 1 percent of the population's wealth increased to nearly 50% in 2014, though 99 percent own the other half. Several economists are largely dismissing Oxfam's estimates.
Byanyima was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines in November 2016, co-chaired by Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland, and Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana.
Following a rigorous screening process that involved a search committee established by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, Byanyima was appointed as the executive director of UNAIDS in August 2019. She also serves as a United Nations Under-Secretary General in her current role.
Byanyima serves a two-year term on the World Bank Group's (WBG) Advisory Council on Gender and Development in addition to her UNAIDS service. She has been a member of the Commission for Universal Health since 2022, and she was co-chaired by Helen Clark and Jakaya Kikwete.