Byanyima took her fight to the front lines in Uganda, joining the National Resistance Army, a rebel group that waged guerrilla war against the Ugandan government. She eventually served three terms in the Ugandan parliament, leading the country's first parliamentary women's caucus.
The refugee-turned-activist said her experiences growing up in Uganda consistently inspire her today. She pointed to a memory of her childhood classmates who could not afford to wear shoes on the walk to school.
"Those girls I went to school with almost 50 years ago, most of them didn't go past primary school," she said. "I went to secondary school and university and here I am a global leader. I'm haunted by the thought that these kids, some of them brighter than myself, never made it."
Byanyima said Oxfam International is working to alleviate extreme poverty and distribute global wealth. The organization published a study in January showing eight billionaires control as much money as the poorest half of the world's population.
"We live in a world where there is really extreme levels of inequality that are trapping millions in poverty and that are wrecking our societies," she said.
"We are determined to make it central to the global policy agenda and push governments and business to act."
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