Winnie Byanyima

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Winnie Byanyima
Born (1959-01-13) 13 January 1959 (age 56)
Mbarara, Uganda
Residence London, United Kingdom
Nationality Ugandan
Citizenship Uganda
Alma mater University of Manchester
(BSc in Aeronautical Engineering)
Cranfield University
(MSc in Mechanical Engineering)
Occupation Engineer, politician and diplomat
Years active 1981 – present
Known for Politics
Home town Mbarara
Spouse(s) Kizza Besigye

Winifred "Winnie" Byanyima (born 13 January 1959 ) is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She served as the director of the Gender Team, in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), from 2006,[1] and in May 2013 was appointed executive director of Oxfam International.[2]


She was born in Mbarara District, in the Western Region of Uganda. Her parents are Boniface Byanyima, one-time national chairman of the Democratic Party in Uganda, and the late Gertrude Byanyima, a former school teacher, who died in November 2008.[3] Winnie Byanyima attended Mount Saint Mary's College Namagunga, in Mukono District. She went on to obtain a bachelors degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester, becoming the first female Ugandan to become an aeronautical engineer. She later received a masters degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in energy conservation from Cranfield University.[4]

Professional career[edit]

Following the completion of her training as an aeronautical engineer, Byanyima worked as a flight engineer for the now-defunct Uganda Airlines. When Yoweri Museveni started the 1981 – 1986 Ugandan Bush War, Byanyima left her job and joined him. Museveni and Byanyima had grown up together at the Byanyima household when both of them were young. Byanyima, Museveni, and her husband Kizza Besigye were combatants in the National Resistance Army (NRA) during that war.[5]

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 Ugandan 1995 Constitution. She then served two consecutive terms as a member of parliament representing Mbarara Municipality, from 1994 until 2004. In 2004, she was 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.[6]

In January 2013, Byanyima was announced as the next executive director of Oxfam International,[7] replacing her predecessor, Jeremy Hobbs who held the position since 2001, and as of 2014 heads the International Non-Governmental Organisations Accountability Charter. Byanima began her five-year directorship at Oxfam on 1 May 2013.[8]

In January 2015, Byanyima co-chaired the World Economic Forum in Davos. She decided to use the forum to press action towards narrowing 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.[9][10][11] Oxfam's figures are strongly contested by several economists.[12]

Personal details[edit]

Byanyima is married to Kizza Besigye, 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.[13] She has five siblings: Edith, Anthony, Martha, Abraham, and Olivia.[14]


  1. ^ AfDB, . (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 (AfDB). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Administrator, . (15 January 2013). "Winnie Byanyima Appointed To Lead Oxfam International". Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Conan Businge, and Ali Waiswa (13 November 2008). "Byanyima's Wife Dead". New Vision(Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Oxfam, . (January 2015). "Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director". Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam). Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Butagira, Tabu (6 May 2011). "Besigye Injuries Disturbing, Says Byanyima". Daily Monitor (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Onyalla, Harriette (29 November 2006). "Byanyima Scoops Top Job". New Vision. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Kiggundu, Edris (15 January 2013). "Winnie Byanyima To Head Oxfam". The Observer (Uganda). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Business, Reporter (6 May 2013). "‘‘Income Inequalities Threaten Africa’’". The Herald. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Wearden, Graeme (20 January 2015). "Oxfam: 85 Richest People As Wealthy As Poorest Half of The World". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  11. ^ BBC Business, . (19 January 2015). "Richest 1% To Own More Than Rest of World, Oxfam Says". BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Vara, Vauhini (28 January 2015). "Critics of Oxfam’s Poverty Statistics Are Missing The Point". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  13. ^ Raymond Baguma, and Abdulkarim Ssengendo (4 February 2011). "I Cannot Leave Baby Besigye, Says Winnie". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Basiime, Felix (17 November 2008). "Winnie Byanyima Hails Deceased Mother". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 19 July 2014. 

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