Shortly after clenching a second 5 year term as the Executive Director of charity organization Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima has committed to use her position to “energize” Ugandans to stand against the prosed constitutional amendment to remove the Presidential age limit from the Ugandan constitution.
Mrs. Byanyima explained that the involvement of Oxfam in Ugandan politics at this level is necessary because the age limit issue is citizen related.
According to the former Mbarara Municipality MP, Oxfam itself “is a political organization but with a small ‘p’” and only comes in when it feels lines have been crossed.
The 58year old while appearing the BBC’s Hard Talk program dismissed the assertion that her intervention in the age limit issues is personal; being that her husband is the main opposition figure in Uganda.
She however defended what the interviewer termed as “mixing the professional and personal.”
“I am a citizen of my country, I cannot be credible in my own country, when I don’t speak out on an issue that is so important for the future of our young people for our economy,” Byanyima said.
“I have to make my statement and then leave it to Ugandans to go ahead and fight it out. I didn’t place myself on the side of government or the opposition; this is strictly a citizen’s issue.”
Byanyima further clarified on the involvement the international charity organization which she has led since 2013.
“This issue of changing the constitution to extend the possibility of the president, who has been in power 35 years to stay longer, is not a partisan issue. This is a citizens’ issue. This is where Oxfam’s voice I think is important; to energize citizens to speak in defense of the constitution.”
“I was one of the makers of the constitution, in the most consultative participatory way and we put in these checks so that presidents don’t use their incumbency to entrench themselves in power.”
“It’s important that I speak so that Ugandans rise and speak for their constitution.”
Running for President
When the question of presenting herself to run for President in 2021 was put to her, Byanyima said this would be an honor but added that her focus is currently on Oxfam.
“It would be an honor to be asked to lead my country but right now I am enjoying an even bigger honor to support the voices of citizens around to find economic justice.
“I have just signed my second contract at Oxfam to serve at the organization for the next five years. I am looking at serving Oxfam right now.”
Sexual Abuse at Oxfam
During the Interview, Mrs. Byanyima also addressed the disturbing reports of sexual abuse claims that have been reported by Oxfam workers.
In October this year, the body fired 22 of its employees who were accused of sexually abusing their female colleagues.
Days before, one of its directors in Nigeria said she had been assaulted by a colleague back in 2010 and that when she reported the attack, she was fired.
In response, Winnie Byanyima said fighting to ensure safety of Oxfam’s female workers is a continuous process.
“It is true Oxfam should be doing more to protect women who work for Oxfam,” she stressed.
Citing the recent wave of revelations of sexual abuses by women in the American political, media and film industries, Byanyima said her organization is working hard to provide a safer working environment for women.
“A norm has changed in the world; American women have stood up and raised the question about the safety of women in the work place.
“We have been working at it for a long time; we are not where we should be but we have something in place that has been working.