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Apr 7, 2014

Apr Rwanda 20 years on

7
2014

Twenty years ago, the world stood by and watched as over 1,000,000 people in Rwanda were killed in 100 days.  Aid agencies saw what was happening and tried in vain to persuade Western governments to fulfil their obligations and intervene to stop the killing.

Today it is sobering to remember Rwanda and think about what has changed. How is the world responding today to war, conflict and murder? 

In short, are the world’s governments any better than they were in 1994 at setting aside selfish interests – or indeed selfish lack of interest – and acting to protect civilians from war and conflict?

Clockwise from top: Rwandan refugees returning from camps in Tanzania in 1996.  Refugees pass by recently dead left at the roadside, Kitali camp, DRC.  Rwandan refugees in Tanzania collecting grain 1994. Oxfam staff member with water bucket and Rwandan refugees in DRC 1997.  Aid worker treating a head wound in DRC 1997. Photos:  Howard Davies/ Oxfam

At first sight, the signs are not encouraging. While there may not have been systematic killings on the scale of the Rwandan genocide since 1994, extreme violence continues, with hundreds of thousands of people killed, raped or living in terror every year.

It’s now more important than ever to ask how well the world is doing in acting to reduce conflicts around the world.

Some things have gotten better. After ten years of NGO campaigning, an Arms Trade Treaty was agreed last year. The UN Security Council now sets about protecting civilians in its peacekeeping operations, far more than it did. 

But different countries still give arms to Syria’s conflict. Terrible violence in countries such as the Central African Republic still struggle for media attention. Despite the growth in UN peacekeeping very few rich countries donate their own resources to this effort.

And Oxfam faces growing humanitarian challenges because the world is still not as good as it should be at resolving conflicts. 

Above: Oxfam Genocide in Rwanda leaflet 1994. Photo:  Howard Davies/ Oxfam

Oxfam has been with Rwanda since the 1960s and working inside the country since 1982, delivering humanitarian response, water and sanitation, conflict management, human rights and democratisation and sustainable livelihoods projects especially in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide.

Rwanda is today a country which has turned itself around and is now achieving impressive growth and stability. Yet massive challenges remain, with nearly half the population living in poverty, needing support to create work in rural and urban areas.

Oxfam is having huge success in Rwanda. We work with local organisations to support farmers to grow their own food, open their own small businesses, train other members of their communities in farming skills and create many jobs in rural areas so that they don’t have to rely on us to provide for them. 

Rwanda is a country moving beyond its tragic past to try to build a peaceful future.

The twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide will be a painful moment for millions, especially the Rwandan survivors still trying to heal their shattered lives. 

For the rest of us, it should be a time to remember how much more there is still to be done to protect civilians in every corner of the world, from every kind of atrocity.

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Apr 1, 2014

Apr 5 critical things we learned from the latest IPCC report on climate change

1
2014

Yesterday leading international experts on climate change, the IPCC, presented their latest report on the impacts of climate change on humanity, and what we can do about it. It’s a lengthy report, so we’ve boiled it down to Oxfam's five key takeaways on climate change and hunger.

1. Climate change: the impacts on crops are worse than we thought.

Climate change has already meant declines in global yields of staple crops, and it is set to get worse.

Not so long ago, some people suggested crops could actually grow better because of climate change. Not any more. The IPCC is clear that we are already seeing the effect of climate change on food production. That will come as no surprise to farmers like Vladimir or Auntie Jacoba. But what is more striking is that the IPCC finds that climate change has meant significant declines not just in some areas in developing countries, but in aggregate global yields for staple crops like wheat and maize. Harvests will continue to be hit hard in the future, both in developing countries and in major crop exporters, at the same time as demand for crops is expected to rise rapidly. That doesn't add up to a more food secure future for our planet.

2. Climate change also means higher food prices for most people.

Most people will feel the impact of climate change on food through the price they pay at their local market or supermarket.

In the years since the last IPCC report, there have been 3 global food price spikes, each linked in part to extreme weather that hit harvests hard. The IPCC gives a cautious estimate that food prices may rise due to climate change by 3-84% by 2050. Oxfam expects food prices to approximately double by 2030, with around half due to climate change, with further spikes linked to extreme weather to come on top of that. That's a massive problem for anyone spending upwards of 50% of their income on food, but increasingly we'll all feel the pinch of higher prices for things like premium coffee or chocolate.

3. Without action, climate change will reverse the fight against hunger – perhaps by several decades.

Right now hunger levels worldwide are going down, though not nearly fast enough. But the IPCC cites studies which project a reversal of this progress. 

By 2050 an extra 50 million people – that's the population of Spain – could be at risk of hunger because of climate change, and an extra 25 million under-fives malnourished – that's the same as all the under-fives in the US and Canada combined. Availability of calories per person is set to fall lower than the levels in 2000. If we are serious about getting to zero hunger by 2025 and staying there, we need a huge increase in climate action – both in adaptation and cutting emissions.

 

 

4. It is not too late to act, but we need to get serious about adaptation.

We must over-come major adaptation deficits to cope with climate impacts on food in the near-term. 

Eradicating hunger by 2025 will take a massive increase in efforts to adapt our food systems to climate change. But as we outlined in a briefing last week, the world is currently woefully unprepared. The IPCC for the first time recognises a funding gap between the finance needed for adaptation – in the order of $100bn per year – and the amounts that are actually flowing (something Oxfam has long shouted about). The countries that have done most to cause climate change should help to pay this bill in poorer countries. But Oxfam estimates countries have received only around 2% of the money they need from the adaptation funds provided to them in the three years since the Copenhagen climate summit.

5. We must cut greenhouse gas emissions now.

Unless we cut greenhouse gas emissions now too, we will surpass our capacity to adapt in the second half of this century. The IPCC is clear that adaptation alone will not be enough. 

By 2050, on our current path, risks to food security in many countries will pass “beyond projected adaptive capacity”. This means there is little we can do to prevent permanent and irreversible damage to food production or the means by which people can buy food. The IPCC suggests this will result in “large risks to food security, globally and regionally” and may mean “current agricultural practices can no longer support large human civilizations”. 

Oxfam is starting to see the limits to adaptation in our own work even today. In Zimbabwe, a previously successful irrigation scheme that has helped farmers to thrive in spite of more erratic rainfall hit the buffers when water levels dropped too low as a result of extreme drought. The IPCC describes the biological temperature limits of crops, beyond which they simply will not grow. The implication is clear: unless we rapidly reduce our emissions now, alongside a huge increase in adaptation efforts, runaway climate change will end our chances of winning the fight against hunger. Will ours be the generation to let that happen?

Mar 27, 2014

Mar Sharon Corr’s mum was and always will be her hero

27
2014

Oxfam Ireland Ambassador Sharon Corr is convinced her mother could have been a successful singer if she’d had the opportunity – but the social norms meant she had to stay home to raise her family.

“My mum grew up in an era where women were more or less dictated to - you must go to work because your brothers need to go to university, you must leave work because you are married and your job is now to look after your husband and have kids,” said Sharon.

Sharon is currently in the US on a world tour with her new album The Same Sun and said the title track was inspired by her trip to Tanzania visiting Oxfam’s women’s rights programmes.

Clockwise from top: Sharon Corr attends an event in Mgeta village organised as part of our We Can campaign to combat domestic violence. This social movement recruits ‘change-makers’, people who pledge to change their attitudes and behaviours towards violence against women. Sharon wears a traditional African headscarf presented to her by local women from Iyenge village. Sharon gets ready to play traditional Irish music for locals in Kimamba village. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Sharon is now supporting our Female Heroes campaign, which encourages people across the island of Ireland to celebrate the inspirational women in their lives.

“Going to Tanzania was a truly life-changing experience. It reinforced for me the power of women to change the world. No matter what challenges they might face and the obstacles in their way, women will do everything they can to overcome them for the good of their family and community,” Sharon said.

“My mother was a beautiful singer and I believe if she had had half the chance she could have really reached for the stars but she stayed at home and looked after us and she took great pride in that - making our clothes, cooking wonderful dinners - she did everything for us and gave us a wonderful childhood.

“She also taught us to follow our dreams. I don't believe you can put a value on that - she gave us wings so we could fly and dreamed of great things for us and I am so glad that she saw our success.

“To me a hero is someone who stands up for what she believes in, who puts the greater good ahead of herself and inspires others because of her strength, her kindness and her courage.” Sharon said.

“We’ve made a lot of strides in Ireland over the years towards equality between the sexes. But we must never take this for granted, nor forgot the women who made this possible from the suffragettes to the feminist movement. Our daughters will grow up with opportunities our grandmothers could only have dreamt of.

“Despite the many advances, women still struggle with sexism in many areas of life. My own experience in the music industry has been a largely positive one, yet there is still so much more focus on woman’s appearance compared to men rather than on her talent and abilities as a performer.

“But there are many strong women both on stage and behind the scenes, along with the fans themselves, who are changing the dynamic,” said Sharon.

Clockwise from top: Our ambassador Sharon Corr meets Female Food Heroes winner Ester Jerome Mtegule at her home in Lyenge village.  Rice farmer Halima Shida shares a moment with Sharon Corr outside her home in Kimamba village. Sharon Corr meets last year’s finalists (from left to right) Mwandiwe Makame, Anna Oloshiro and the winner Ester Jerome Mtegule, along with Oxfam Ireland’s Monica Gorman, at the launch of the 2012 Female Food Heroes competition. All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

“Seeing the difference our support can make, I would encourage people throughout Ireland - North and South - to celebrate the women who have made a difference in their lives with an Oxfam Heroes card, gift or event.

“We all know heroes, but how often have you told someone that they’re yours? Not only is it a beautiful way to say thanks to a female hero in your life, but you’ll also make a positive difference to women living in extreme poverty worldwide.

“Heroes change the world in big ways and in small. My motto is that we do not need to do great things, just little things with great love.

Celebrate your Hero this Mother's Day with one of our special gifts. 100% of the profits go to supporting Oxfam's work with women worldwide.  You can see more from Sharon's trip to Tanzania in the video below.

Mar 25, 2014

Mar My Mum, my hero

25
2014

From an early age my Mum gave me a taste for adventure and exploration, of the world beyond my doorstep but also the world within – my own potential and my spirituality, to wonder, ignite curiosity, to question, to move from the heart. She gave me courage and taught me that grit goes hand in hand with grace, especially as a woman. Where grit means determination, fearlessness and courage and grace is beauty in action, being impeccable with your word, being kind to yourself and others.

We both share a love for the ocean. My Mum was a surfer when she was in her teens, at a time when surfing wasn’t trendy, cool or mainstream and she was one of very few women doing it in Ireland. A pioneer and rebel going against her parent’s wishes and using all her savings to buy her first surfboard, hiding her first surf injury under a hat for an entire summer because she didn’t want her parents to stop her doing what she loved. Luckily for me, I was actively encouraged to pursue my love for the sea and surf.

I travelled the world with her from an early age. Mum believes in the importance of marking rites of passage in life, the great turning points in our life, on the ‘hero’s journey’. Experiencing new places, people and cultures from such a young age had a huge impact on my life and my worldview. When I was 11, before I finished primary school and began secondary school I went on an adventure with my Mum to Nepal. I say adventure because a part from booking the return flights everything else was an unknown and we lived one day at a time, each day full of possibility, and the unexpected was always to be expected.

Above: Easkey and her mum's return journey to Nepal & Bhutan in 2012. Photos: Easkey Britton / NC Britton.

Nepal opened me to the light and dark of the world – a place where life and death co-existed and were celebrated – milk was used to cleanse the dead and blood was used to cleanse the living. I met lepers and a living goddess, monks and thieves, holy men and con artists, Tibetan refugees and Nepalese Royalty. It was something that both my parents never hide from me – the rawness of life in all its colour. The memories remain the most of vivid of any trip, still. I’ve always been a writer. I find it goes hand in hand with travel and I’ve kept a journal since I was a child. I dug out my journal that I kept when I was in Nepal that first time. Here is an excerpt from my 11 year old self that best captures the essence of that journey with Mum;

Pokhara, November 1997

In the boat on the lake as the sun rises over the Himalayas, burning away the cloud and illuminating the snowy peaks in a blaze of pink and gold. Mammy and I dash back across the lake, pulling hard on the owers, quickly find a taxi driver who is willing to take us up the nearby mountain, up the hair-pin bends. We stop when the road stops and begin our climb.

We climb through the mountain village to the top of the mountain where a mix of souls have gathered in the dawn light to stand in awe before the mighty Himalaya mountains. The pink and golden peak of Macchupichari rising the highest before us, the Annapurnas in the distance. It is a vision that is forever burned into my memory, a sight so beautiful and humbling it would move any being to tears.

Bodhunath, November 1997

Walking around Bodhnath stupa turning prayer wheels, Buddhist monks prostrating, young monks with arms around each other. Drink a lassi on the roof top in the morning mist. Visit a Tibetan tailor and buy little monks clothes for me. This is where they filmed Little Buddha. A poor Nepalese man sat with us on the whitewashed steps telling us his sad story of his dying sister and no medicine or money for doctors. I read in the guidebook to be wary of such scams. He could be lying or telling the truth, it didn’t matter. He was so desperate and we had more than him so Mum gave him the money she had. I don’t think it was enough to fix his problems. It’s like trying to stop a flood by building a dam of pebbles...but I think it is much worse to do nothing at all...

Clockwise from top: Tika Dalarmi at home in Nepal. Tika is recognised everywhere in the village and says her life has been transformed, thanks to Oxfam's Raising her Voice project and the extraordinary efforts of local women themselvesRaising Her Voice is a global project being implemented in 17 countries to try to overcome the widespread marginalisation of women. Oxfam works with partner organisations to promote the rights and ability of poor women to increase their influence and ensure their voices are heard so that those in power, from village leaders to politicians and law-makers, become more accountable to them. Over five years (2007-2012), more than a million women have seen life-changing benefits as a result of the project that changes attitudes towards women and the role they play.Tika holds photos of her husband, who is away working elsewhere in Nepal to earn money for the family during the lean season. Photos: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam. 

These stories show the gifts Mum gave me then - the wonder and beauty of nature, to be in awe at a power greater than ourselves and the importance of gratitude and giving, how even a small act of kindness matters.

I promised I would return the gift by taking my Mum on an adventure when I was old enough to treat her. We left with this knowing deep down that we would return. In 2012, after 15 years of saving and submitting my PhD I took Mum back to Nepal and across the Himalayas into the Buddhist mountain kingdom of Bhutan, the land of Gross National Happiness. When we travel together and share experiences like that it doesn’t feel like we are mother and daughter, more like best friends – sharing and challenging the best in each other be it scaling mountains 10,000ft high to a ‘tiger’s nest’ or receiving blessings from reincarnated lamas, braving the local chilli dish or learning how to shoot arrows. We find where our strengths are and how we can support each other, for example, when Mum goes shopping I do the bargaining or when I want to get up close and personal to a wild rhino, Mum (tries) to hold me back.

On International Women’s Day I had the opportunity to collaborate with my Mum on a health and wellbeing course she is running with a local community group. It was such a special and powerful thing to share, to be in my Mum’s work space and to see her in her element. How she makes the space so welcoming and sacred, with such care and attention, the love and gratitude shared by the participants. I was there to share my story and to talk about ‘exploring our true potential,’ a path Mum and I have been on all our lives and will continue to travel on together. 

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Feb 25, 2014

Feb Brand new designer dresses with bargain price at the Oxfam Bridal Fair

25
2014

Are you looking for the wedding dress of your dreams without having to spend a fortune? Look no further than Oxfam’s Bridal Week, kicking off this Saturday at 10am in Oxfam Bridal on George’s Street, Dublin.

The main event will take place on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 March but due to last year’s popular demand the event will run for a further five days, opening from 10am until 8pm on Saturday and weekdays, and 12pm to 6pm on the Sunday. 

This year’s Wow Factor comes in the form of a pre-loved lace bridal dress by internationally-renowned designer Vera Wang. This stunning gown is on sale at the unbelievable price of €800 and comes complete with its original Certificate of Authentication.

PHOTOS: Here's a selection of the type of brand new designer dresses we sell at Oxfam Bridal.  Middle-row, centre: Sean Breithaupt & Yvette Monahan. All others: Darren Fitzpatrick.

Check out Oxfam George's St. on Twitter for a sneak peek at the Vera Wang gown on sale there!

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