AU Commissioner Gawanas receives international recognition

She has been mobilizing Africa to support women’s health and equality

African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner for Social Affairs Advocate Bience Gawanas has been honoured as one of the world’s top 100 most inspiring people delivering for women and girls, especially for her work in mobilizing Africa to support women’s health and equality.

The honour was bestowed by Women Deliver, a US based organisation that works globally to generate political commitment and financial investment for fulfilling Millennium Development Goal 5, i.e. to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health.

Commissioner Gawanas was selected from among hundreds of names, to join the coveted list of the top 100, that also includes Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria- Managing Director of the World Bank; Wangari Maathai, Kenya, Founder of the Green Belt Movement, Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; Graça Machel, Mozambique- Founding Member of the Elders, President of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique, Former Minister for Education and Culture in Mozambique; Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Executive Director of UN Women, Doctor, Former President of Chile; Ban Ki-Moon- Secretary General of the United Nations: and Hilary Clinton- US Secretary of State.

As Commissioner of Social Affairs, Advocate Gawanas has worked to advocate for, harmonize and coordinate regional and continental policies and programmes relating to social development.

Her Department has developed policy instruments, projects and programmes on social development, including the Social Policy Framework, the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, the Declaration on Universal Access and an African Common Position presented at the UN High Level Meeting on Universal Access.

She was also responsible for monitoring the progress of their implementation by Member States and reporting to the Assembly of Heads of State. Other pioneering activities include the renewed Campaign on Malaria Eradication, the AU Campaign Initiatives on Human Trafficking (AU.Commit) and the Campaign on the African Cultural Renaissance; the launch of the AU Award of Children’s Champions; and the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), which has refocused attention on women and their health.

Commissioner Gawanas has served on various international taskforces and committees; and is a member of the Commission on Accountability and Information of the WHO, and the UNAIDS Global Steering Committee on Universal Access.

The Commissioner has also served as Public Service Commissioner in her native Namibia and as the country’s first black Ombudswoman. She is a long standing women’s rights activist.

Her involvement in supporting people with disabilities led to her role as Patron of the National Federation of Persons with Disabilities in Namibia. As a law reformer, Advocate Gawanas was instrumental in drafting and enacting laws to guarantee gender equality, such as the Married Person’s Equality Act, which granted equal status to married women, and others that provide protection to rape victims, abused women and children—such as the Combating of Rape Act.

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