Deborah Byrne


For the past 5 years, Deborah has worked in the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) in Johannesburg, where she leads their Capacity Development of Civil Society Organisations programme. Deborah’s interest is in the social justice movement building side to this work that approaches capacity building not as technical support, but one that prioritises the deepening of strategy and orientation with institution building as a tool and not end in itself. To this end, Deborah is currently leading the piloting of a model in two provinces, to test an approach that works with self-identified groups of organisations towards conscious deepening of their rootedness in the communities that they serve and concrete strengthening of women leadership and young leadership.

Deborah became politically active in the early 1980s as a student at Wits University, completing a BA (English, Social Anthropology & History) and later post-graduate education diploma. After a few years of travel and work overseas, Deborah began work in the South African labour movement in 1988 where she remained for 18 years. Ten of those years (1988-1998) were spent working between COSATU and its transport union (T&GWU that became SATAWU) in financial and organisational capacity development work. This was followed by 8 years in DITSELA (1998-2006), the worker education institute servicing the labour movement, working in course development and research & development. In 2006, Deborah was invited to join the TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) as Development Manager and was part of the National Management Team for a year before electing not to renew her contract. She instead took on freelance work for a short period and this included work for FHR where she eventually settled full-time.