Windhoek — Advocate Bience Gawanas yesterday told New Era that she will perform to the "best of her ability" in her new role as special advisor on Africa to the United Nation (UN)'s secretary-general Antonio Guterres.
"I am excited. I woke up this morning and said it was not a dream. I first served my country in various capacities and then I went on to serve at the African Union and now at a world body. What greater honour can you have in being recognised for what you can contribute," a thrilled Gawanas said.
Gawanas, who will commence her new assignment on March 5, is currently the special advisor to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
Gawanas said she is a Namibian first and foremost and by carrying out her duties diligently, she will be representing Namibia at the world body. "I am always mindful when occupying these kinds of positions for the image of Namibia and Africa," added Gawanas.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, in a media statement said Gawanas eminently qualified for the position, having distinguished herself as AU commissioner for social affairs.
"We have full confidence in Advocate Gawanas' intellectual abilities and professionalism. She was the first African woman commissioner for social affairs and was deservedly credited for having contributed significantly to the development of the AU social policy," said Nandi-Ndaitwah. Having worked for the AU, Gawanas said her new appointment is an opportunity for closer collaboration between the AU and the UN. 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). Gawanas was elected for two terms as the commissioner for social affairs at 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 programmes 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 of Education and Training of Health Workers, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, the Commission on Accountability and Information on Women's and Children's Health, the Global Steering Committee on Universal Access, the Commission on Accountability and Information on Women and Children's Health, 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 the Western Cape.
Born in 1966, she has three children and four grandchildren. - Additional reporting by www.un.org