Careers

‘It doesn’t matter what you do, just enjoy it and do your best’: Oxfam International’s executive director

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Parents can come up with some quirky pieces of advice when you most need them, but none more so than the mother of Winnie Byanyima.

"My mother always told me, 'Winnie, you should be able to do any kind of job, except one which breaks one of the Ten Commandments,'" said Oxfam International's executive director.

A proud Catholic woman, Byanyima's mother instilled in her the belief that she was capable of anything, including "cleaning floors, scrubbing toilets, or flying a plane."

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Today, Byanyima has one of the most diverse resume's in the world. From refugee to aeronautical engineer, political activist to diplomat, and now executive director at Oxfam International, Byanyima has fought for justice throughout her varied career.

But it's her mother's advice growing up in Uganda that has always stayed with her.

"I'm ready to do any kind of work, as long as it absorbs my passion for making a just world and equal world," Byanyima told CNBC in an episode of Life Hacks Live.

"My mother's advice is, 'Don't ever despise any kind of work. Every job that is improving humanity, the state of humanity, is worth doing.'"

Byanyima's mother, who passed away almost nine years ago, left her job as a primary school teacher to raise her seven children. She grew all the family's food and sewed her children's clothes, while also selling the clothing in the local markets in Uganda. She went on to retrain and become a businesswoman, eventually opening a hardware store.

"She always believed that the sky was the limit for herself and her children," said Byanyima. "That's why I am who I am because she'd never gave me an option to say, 'Oh I can't do maths, I'm a girl,' I had to be the best."

"I could not give myself a pass and say this is tough. You had to show her that you've tried, and you've tried your best and you've done your bit. She taught me to believe in myself to claim equality and to dream big," added Byanyima.

Byanyima's fight for equality was laced into her from an early age. When she would walk the six-mile round trip to school and back in shoes, many of her friends walked barefoot as they couldn't afford footwear.

"It was simply not acceptable for me as a child to feel entitled to more privilege than other kids," said Byanyima.

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full episode here.