United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced today the appointment of Bience Gawanas of Namibia as Special Adviser on Africa. She will succeed Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization. The Secretary-General also wishes to extend his appreciation to Mr. David Mehdi Hamam who served as Acting Special Adviser since Mr. Abdelaziz’s departure.
Ms. Gawanas has served as Special Adviser to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Namibia. Prior to this, she was Special Adviser to the Minister of Health and Social Services. A champion of women’s health and rights in Africa, she has been commended for her role in initiating far-reaching campaigns such as the continental Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).
Ms. Gawanas was elected for two terms as the Commissioner for Social Affairs by the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2003 and 2008, during which time she was responsible for advocacy as well as the harmonization and coordination of regional and continental policies and programme on promoting social development. Her portfolio included health, HIV/AIDS and nutrition, migration and population, arts and culture, the welfare of vulnerable groups, labour and migration, and sports. Prior to her work as Commissioner, she was Ombudswoman of Namibia (1996-2003). She has also worked as a lawyer at the Legal Assistance Centre, a human rights NGO (1990-1991) and as a lecturer on gender law at the University of Namibia (1995-1997).
She has served on various taskforces and commissions, including the UNAIDS Global Task Team on Improving AIDS Coordination Among Multilateral Institutions and International Donors, the Task Force for Scaling-up Education and Training of Health Workers, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, the Global Steering Committee on Scaling-up towards Universal Access, and the Lancet-Oslo University Commission on Global Governance for Health.
She holds an LLB Honours degree from the University of Warwick, UK, and an Utter Barrister Degree from the Council of Legal Education School of Law/Lincolns Inn, UK. She also holds an Executive MBA from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an honorary doctorate degree in Law from the University of Western Cape. Born in 1956 she has four children and four grandchildren.