Activism

Sep 23, 2013

Sep Afghan women at risk while police force remains 99 per cent male

23
2013

Only 1 per cent of the Afghan National Police is female. More women are urgently needed in the Afghan police force in order to reduce violence against women and ensure the safety of all Afghans.

Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, and as we near the end of a war which was supposed to liberate them, Afghan women are still not safe in their homes or their country.

Abused, harassed, discriminated against, raped, forced into marriage and jailed for so called “moral crimes” such as running away or sex outside marriage, women in Afghanistan need protection more than ever before. 

Afghan women police

Top: Director Mary Akrimi, a well-known women’s rights activist, head of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) which runs programs such as women’s shelters and gender training for police. Mary Akrimi also advises the Ministry of Interior on women and the police in Afghanistan. Bottom: 28-year-old Pari Gul has been a policewoman for 7 years and is the only woman at the Jalalabad checkpoint, checking women and cars, from 7am-5pm each day. Pari Gul counts herself lucky to have the support of her male colleagues and her boss, Colonel Samsoor. Photo: Ellie Kealey/Oxfam 

I recently met a teacher called Mariam who had been sexually abused by her own husband. She went to her local police station three times and each time turned back because she could not bring herself to tell the male officer what was happening to her. Every time she returned home, the violence continued. 

After it escalated further and caused the pregnant Mariam to miscarry, a friend encouraged her to again go to the police. When Mariam explained she had tried many times before, her friend found a female officer from another police station who listened to her situation, investigated her case and referred it to a prosecution unit. The eventual prosecution happened because of the presence of this female police officer; Mariam was finally able to get the help she needed and her life was saved. 

Over the last few years it has become clear that Afghan women need a police force that will give them the justice and security they need. Most importantly, they need more women police.

A new Oxfam report, Women and the Afghan Police, shows that many women who join the police are faced with abuse and discrimination from colleagues and superiors; they lack proper training and female-only facilities, even basic equipment and uniforms. Much more needs to be done to ensure policewomen are effective and safe in their jobs. 

One of the key findings from Oxfam’s report is that Afghanistan has only one female police officer for every 10,000 Afghan women. Many Afghan women will never see a policewoman, let alone be able to report a crime to one.

But this is not just an issue of justice for women. 

Peace and security will be impossible in Afghanistan until the police gain the trust of communities - and policewomen are crucial to obtaining this trust. Policewomen are more effective in dealing with families and communicating with women and children. They are seen as less threatening, can help de-escalate conflicts in arrests and house searches, and ensure greater cooperation with the police.

Public confidence in the police in Afghanistan is extremely low. With the police focus on counter-insurgency for so many years, they are perceived as a paramilitary force by ordinary Afghans. This is compounded by the fact that the police are often seen to be the cause of so much violence in the communities they are supposed to protect. 

The contempt of the police mixed with society’s disregard of women means that police women face a particularly brutal form of stigma in Afghanistan.  They are not respected, nor is their job deemed respectable. Many are threatened and abused, even by their own families because of their work, and some have been killed.

This has to change, and it can if the right steps are taken. Reforms are already putting a focus on community policing. If more women join this reformed force, and are seen to be dealing with crime and helping stop violence, they will be viewed as valuable members of the community. 

 

Afghan Women Need Afghan Women Police

While the majority of NATO forces will withdraw next year, NATO countries will continue to hold the purse strings for the Afghan security forces. They must take responsibility and ensure that the Afghan government commits to reforms of the police force and the urgent recruitment and training of more policewomen. 

The next 18 months are critical for Afghanistan, and especially for Afghan women. A simple change to the way we police our communities and keep women safe has the potential to lead Afghanistan in the right direction. 

Wahzma Frogh is an Afghan activist and co-founder and director of the Afghan organization Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Jul 31, 2013

Jul Every voice counts: Changing attitudes towards women in Nepal

31
2013
Five years ago Tika Darlami (45) rarely left her own house, not even to buy food locally. Women’s opportunities were limited in her rural village in the Surkhet district of Nepal. Social norms kept them tied to the household, with low levels of literacy and lack of awareness of their rights. 
 
Today, Tika is recognised everywhere in the village, thanks to Oxfam's Raising her Voice project and the extraordinary efforts of local women themselves.
 
“For more than 30 years, I stayed in the house doing household work… I thought that I couldn't do anything outside because I was an illiterate woman,” she explains. “Now I walk with confidence ... I am a totally different woman.”
 
 
Clockwise from top: Tika Dalarmi at home. Tika says her life has been transformed by Oxfam's Raising her Voice project. 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. 
 
Raising 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 says: "When I first wanted to get involved in the project, my husband wasn't keen and he urged me not to go. He told me that my primary job was to look after the home and that since I was illiterate, I could do nothing useful there. He didn't mean to hurt me, he just wanted to be sure that household work was not disrupted by my involvement in outside business. I was disappointed. I was really determined to join!
 
 
Left to right: Tika gathers fodder for her livestock. Tika purchases food and other household items in a market shop. Five years ago this would have been an impossible scene, but Tika's involvement in the Raising her Voice programme has changed that.
Photos: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam.
 
“Nowadays his attitude has changed. People praise my ideas in front of him. Now he feels proud of me. He teases me saying ‘Netaji’ [‘leader’]. He has no problem with me being involved in social work, and he is happy to switch the responsibilities between us and do some of the household work that I used to do. Now he believes in empowering women. This change is due to the work of the group.”
 
Women’s groups are key to the Raising Her Voice approach because they provide an opportunity for women to share and discuss issues affecting them, learn about their rights and legal protection, and to find solidarity and support amongst each other. 
 
“When we have a community discussion class, we sit together to select an issue which needs a discussion. Any subject can be a matter of discussion. It can be about a family issue, a neighbourhood issue, the education of children or anything else.”
 
In Nepal, the Raising Her Voice project has directly benefitted 2,004 women in 81 project villages with an estimated indirect benefit for 89,000 people in the wider community. Another great development is that more than 1,400 leadership positions in local decision-making bodies have been filled by women.
 
Along with attending the women’s group funded by Oxfam and run by facilitators trained by our partner, Women's Association for Marginalised Women, Tika now also sits on the local school’s management committee where she helps make decisions about how to spend the school's annual budget, how to maintain the school premises and how to improve the quality of teaching.
 
 
Clcokwise from top: Tika's daughter Bhimisa (9) with two of their baby goats. Tika’s daughter Bhimisa (standing) reads aloud in class at the local primary school where Tika is now on the management committee. Tika says: "I believe that my daughter and my son have an equal right to a good education." Tika dances during a meeting of the 'Nari Utthan' (which means ‘women ascending’). Groups like this give women the opportunity to share and discuss issues affecting them, learn about their rights and to find support amongst each other. Photos: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam. 
 
We know that when women are treated as equals, we all reap the benefits. In fact, if women farmers had the same access to land, tools, seeds and credit as men, they could grow enough extra food to feed more than 100 million of the world’s hungriest people.
 
 
Let’s celebrate the men and women, including our amazing supporters, who are already making a difference and use our voices and choices to be part of the solution!
 
Sorcha Nic Mhathúna is Oxfam Ireland’s Communications and Content Coordinator.
 
Jul 3, 2013

Jul Festival-goers add their voice to our campaign – will you join us?

3
2013

Did you know that you’re more likely to be poor if you’re a woman? You’re more likely to go hungry and be kept out of school. You’re less likely to own land or have the right to make decisions affecting your life. But we can do something about this. 

This summer, the Oxfam Campaigns Team is asking festival-goers to be part of the solution by supporting our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been at Robbie Williams, Bon Jovi and Rihanna and spoken to masses of music lovers about our campaign. So far the response has been phenomenal! 

Already, hundreds of people have shown their support by getting their picture taken with our big, pink megaphone or signing up to support the campaign, which highlights how empowering women has an incredible impact on communities working their way out of poverty.

Above: Fans show their support for our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign at the Rihanna concert in Dublin – we’re looking for volunteers to join our festival team at events across the island of Ireland during the rest of the summer! Ger Murphy/Oxfam.

By giving women the same opportunities, skills and tools as men, and ensuring their voice is heard, ordinary women like Sister Martha Waziri, winner of our 2012 Female Food Heroes competition in Tanzania, can achieve incredible things.

At age 17, she began transforming 18 acres of unwanted, barren wasteland into a thriving farm, growing sugarcane, sweet potatoes, bananas and more. 

In doing so she has become a beacon of change for other local women, many of whom have now followed her example. The profits from her farm have allowed Sister Martha to support 12 local orphaned children, providing them with food and shelter. 

Her story and those of other inspirational women was broadcast to millions of people in Tanzania, thanks to our partnership with one of the country’s top-rated TV shows.

Sister Martha shows how Ending Poverty Starts with Women.

Above left: Sister Martha Waziri proves that women can play a crucial role in helping to lift communities out of poverty – she transformed unwanted wasteland into a thriving farm that helps feed 12 orphaned children. Oxfam/MaishaPlus. Above-right: A group of female volunteers (members of the Oxfam water and sanitation committee) head into Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan to spread vital messages to young women over loudspeaker and to distribute hygiene kits. John Ferguson/Oxfam.

We’re looking forward to spending the rest of the summer spreading the word about the campaign and we want you to be a part of it!

We need volunteer stewards and campaigners to join our team. As a volunteer stewards, you’ll work as low-level security at the events with the money donated by festival organisers going to help Oxfam to fight poverty. As a volunteer campaigner, you’ll engage festival-goers with our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign.

There are still plenty of events that you can join us at. Over the next few months, we’ll be at Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Longitude, Tennants Vital, Belsonic, Aviva stadium shows, Phoenix Park shows and more.

If you fancy a free ticket to some of the best gigs this summer, or want to have fun while working together to end the injustice of global poverty, then sign up to volunteer with us now! 

You can find out more here or join our Volunteer Festival Stewards Facebook Group to get involved!

Jun 21, 2013

Jun The G8 is over, so what's the verdict?

21
2013

The G8 is over, the politicians have gone and Enniskillen can return to being a quiet market town at the far end of Northern Ireland.

But as the TV Crews return to London, New York and Tokyo, this quite hamlet in the Northern Irish countryside might be returning to normal but the world is not.

Tax dodging

The Leaders of 8 of the world’s 11 largest economies (India, China and Brazil are not part of the G8) recognised that tax dodging is a problem and something needs to be done about it.  They acknowleged that developing countries are losing much needed funds through the practice, and recognised that countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders.

Above: Oxfam organised a range of stunts to highlight key issues during the G8 Summit.  Top, Oxfam's 'Big Head' G8 leaders attempt to crack the recipe to end golobal hunger.  Middle, our Syria stunt highlighted the number of lives lost so far in that crisis.  Bottom, our closing stunt asked it G8 leaders scored a hole in one on global hunger.

Land grabs

The G8 Summit put the issue of land on the agenda for the first time. Commitments to improve transparency in land investments and establish partnerships with developing countries to advance land rights in line with UN-standards are a step in the right direction.

And the verdict?

While it is encouraging that reform on the issues of tax and land, which Oxfam campaigned heavily for, have received political backing, it is only the first step in a much wider campaign against the scandal of global poverty and hunger, which are exacerbated by these problems.

“Poor people will be left behind in the race for tax reform unless the G8 seriously ups its game and goes beyond secret lists that cannot tackle secrecy" said Jim Clarken, Oxfam's CEO.  "With a gold standard on global automatic tax information exchange fast becoming a reality, we need more than warm words on how poor countries get a fair deal.”

On land, more ambition is needed beyond this Summit if we are to end the scandal that has led to an area of land 12 times the size of the island of Ireland has been sold to foreign investors between 2000 and 2010.

“G8 leaders must now work towards a truly ambitious global initiative on land by 2015 that gets the right people round the table to smash the wall of secrecy that leads to land grabs.”

What we need now is for the strong rhetoric to be followed by action. Oxfam’s campaigns for tax justice and land rights for people in the developing world, along with our participation in the IF campaign in Northern Ireland, has resonated strongly with the public

It is time for governments to recognise this and take real action.

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Jun 13, 2013

Jun Final countdown to the G8 Summit

13
2013

Today, I’m packing my bags and heading off to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit. 

The annual gathering of the ‘Group of 8’ - the club of some of the world’s most powerful nations – always attracts protesters and the global media, and concludes with a grand statement and the obligatory family photo.

This year will be no different, but it’s been eight years since I have witnessed the spectacle. Oxfam will be in Enniskillen to deliver one message to the G8 - that it’s time to put an end to the scandal of world hunger. 

Above: G8 leaders (well, the Oxfam 'Big Head' versions) arrive in Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 Summit on June 17th and 18th 2013. Check out this Flickr gallery for more photos from their trip.

Whilst the G20 may have overtaken the G8 as the biggest show in town, this year’s G8 Summit has been given a higher billing than the last few years. It has also sparked interest from a coalition of over 200 charities across the island of Ireland and in Britain, who have formed a major campaign on hunger called IF.

For the 2013 Summit, the UK is sitting in the Chair’s seat, and British Prime Minister David Cameron has touted this as the ‘most ambitious G8 yet’. 

He has promised to get the G8’s own house in order on three of the big issues affecting the world today – trade, tax and transparency – and has also pledged action on global hunger. These are welcome words – but the real test is whether the eight leaders can deliver next week.

The decisions they make on two key issues could make a huge difference to the fight against global hunger.  

Tax dodging

Tax dodging is an issue that’s grabbing the headlines in many G8 countries, but its impact on developing countries has received less attention.

Every year, developing countries lose more than €120bn/£100bn to just one type of corporate tax dodging – enough to eradicate hunger more than three times over.

But it is also the tip of the iceberg, as hundreds of billions are also hidden away by the world’s wealthiest and corporate giants in tax havens. In fact, our research shows that wealthy individuals could be avoiding tax on as much as €700bn/£600bn through Irish financial institutions. We’ll be telling the G8 that they must get tough on tax dodging, by changing the rules that protect the companies and individuals using tax havens so no one can hide their money away and avoid tax without consequences. 

Land grabbing

Land grabbing is an issue that has been under the radar for too long. The race for land in developing countries is exposing vulnerable communities to the risk of losing their homes, ways of life and the land they rely on for food to eat.

Meanwhile the race to put adequate regulations in place to prevent land grabs has hardly started. Already, G8 companies and investors have bought land in developing countries more than the size of the whole of Ireland since the year 2000.

This land could grow enough food for 96 million people. The G8 has a huge opportunity to protect people from land grabs by increasing the transparency of land investments, and forcing its own companies to disclose information on any land deals they are involved in. Will they take this opportunity?

So, what can we expect?

The G8’s track record in delivering on their promises is not one to shout about, as their own ‘Accountability Report’ shows. But in the last few weeks, there have been some signs that the G8 is moving in the right direction. 

Last week, governments committed $4.15 billion to tackling malnutrition at a special event on nutrition, and this week we’re seeing some movement on both tax and extractive industry transparency by some G8 countries. But a G8 deal on land and tax which really helps poor countries is badly off track.  

With more than a billion people living in extreme poverty and one in eight going to bed hungry tonight, the G8 need to raise their game over the coming days. We will be following the G8 Summit every step of the way – sharing the latest news, demanding greater action from leaders, and having just a little fun with our famous G8 Big Heads!

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