Bience 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. She then went on to serve as Advisor to the Minister of Health of Namibia, and is currently the Special Advisor to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare.
In October 2012, she completed her second term as Commissioner for Social Affairs in the African Union. In this role, she oversaw the harmonization and coordination of regional and continental policies and programmes relating to social development.
Her portfolio of issues has included health, HIV/AIDS, population, migration, welfare of vulnerable groups, and labour.
As the Commissioner of Social Affairs, she developed policy instruments and programmes, including the Social Policy Framework, the Migration Policy Framework for Africa, Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention, the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and the Charter for the African Cultural Renaissance.
She launched the African Union’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), mobilizing global, regional and country-level support and refocusing attention on women’s health. She is also responsible for monitoring progress of its implementation by Member States and reporting to the African Union Assembly of Heads of State.
Bience Gawanas has served on various taskforces and commissions such as 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.
Prior to her work as Commissioner, she worked as a lawyer at the Legal Assistance Centre, a human rights NGO, and was lecturer on gender law at the University of Namibia. She was also Chair of the Law Reform and Development Commission, Member of the Board of the Namibian Central Bank and Ombudswoman of Namibia until 2003.
She obtained an LL.B Honours 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 from the University of Western Cape.