Binaifer Nowrojee, a prominent Kenyan human rights lawyer, is set to become the first woman from the Global South to lead the Open Society Foundations. This foundation is renowned as a significant private funder supporting independent justice groups. Nowrojee’s appointment comes as she replaces Mark Malloch-Brown, a Briton, who will step down from his position in June of this year.

Nowrojee’s background is rooted in her extensive experience within the Open Society Foundations. She has held various key positions within the organization, including vice president for programmes, director of the East Africa Foundation, regional director for Asia Pacific, and vice president for organizational transformation. Notably, her tenure has been marked by strategic and structural realignments within the foundation, aimed at bolstering its ability to drive change in a rapidly evolving global landscape.

Her credentials include a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School and an LLM from Harvard Law School, emphasizing her strong academic foundation in international law and human rights. With over three decades of experience, Nowrojee has navigated politically sensitive environments to foster meaningful change, reflecting her commitment to advancing justice globally.

Throughout her career, Nowrojee has championed various advocacy initiatives in Africa and Asia, focusing on promoting social justice and equality. Her work extends beyond the foundation, including roles as a legal counsel at Human Rights Watch and a staff attorney at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. She has also been involved in prosecuting sexual violence under international law, testifying as an expert witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In her acceptance speech, Nowrojee expressed gratitude for the opportunity to lead the Open Society Foundations. She acknowledged the organization’s history of supporting extraordinary leaders and organizations worldwide in combating injustice and improving society. Nowrojee pledged to uphold the values of an open society and the vision of founder George Soros, emphasizing critical thinking, local knowledge, and risk-taking.

However, Nowrojee’s appointment comes amid a period of significant transition within the organization. The leadership change follows years of layoffs as the foundation transitions to a new operating model. Nowrojee acknowledges the challenges faced during this transition, recognizing the pain and loss experienced by staff and partners.

Looking ahead, Nowrojee urges collective commitment towards the foundation’s vision of a more just and compassionate world. As she assumes leadership, she calls upon stakeholders to join her in advancing the foundation’s mission and addressing the pressing global challenges of our time.

Leave a Reply