From the field

Mar 6, 2013

Mar Voice of female farmers loud and clear this International Women’s Day

6
2013

TV talent show The Voice is attracting a huge audience here at home but none quite so big as our Female Food Heroes competition, as Voice judge and Oxfam ambassador Sharon Corr discovered on her recent trip to Tanzania. 

Using reality TV, radio, newspapers and text voting, the initiative has reached 25 million people – more than half of Tanzania’s population – and plays a vital role in strengthening the status of female farmers.

The 2012 competition – which Sharon Corr helped to launch – partnered with popular show Maisha Plus and saw 14 finalists selected from thousands of entries.

Clockwise from top:  Previous winner Ester Jerome Mtegule and Oxfam Ireland’s Mwanahamis Salimu present our ambassador Sharon Corr with a traditional African headscarf at the launch of last year’s Female Food Heroes competition in Tanzania. Barry McCall/Oxfam. The Female Food Hero 2012 competition tours a village in the Lushoto Mountains region in northeastern Tanzania. Thousands of female farmers entered. Oxfam/MaishaPlus. 2012 winner Sister Martha Waziri transformed unwanted wasteland into a successful farm that feeds her local community, including 12 orphaned children. Oxfam/MaishaPlus.

Selected by public vote for the ways they’ve helped their communities, the finalists moved into a reality TV village and shared  their skills with young people from urban areas on the show, which also helps to highlight the struggle women can face surrounding the ownership of land.

With International Women’s Day taking place this week and lots of our amazing supporters getting ready to host Get Together events to celebrate, we’d like to introduce  the eventual winner, Sister Martha Waziri (45) from Dodoma.

As a 17-year-old she found some barren unused land that none of the local men wanted. But when she asked the local authorities if she could use it, they laughed at her. “I became an object of ridicule,” she recalls. 

Eventually, she fought and got her way. She has since turned 18 acres of unwanted 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. 

Thanks to your support, we can help incredible women like Sister Waziri to overcome the challenges they face and continue to feed their families and their communities.

Clockwise from top left: As 2011 finalist Mwandiwe Makame won a solar panel which she shares with other women in her community; 2011 winner Ester Jerome Mtegule shows others how to replicate her innovative farming techniques and (top left) 2011 finalist Anna Oloshiro is a fellow trailblazer for women’s rights: “I believe that providing women with access to information will empower them more, make them aware of their rights and, in the process, they will change or improve their lives.” All photos by Barry McCall/Oxfam

Last year’s winner was Esther Jerome Mtegule from Iyenge in central Tanzania. She was one of the inspirational women who our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign ambassador Sharon Corr met in Tanzania.

Ester had managed to increase the yield of one of her crops from five to 75 bags a year by growing a drought-resistant variety instead of using the traditional one favoured by most farmers. This helped feed her whole village.

Her achievement received mass-media coverage and led to her travelling internationally to talk about the vital role of small-scale women farmers.

"I will do everything to support women food producers. They bring peace and harmony in their families and a nation at large," Ester explains. "And they bring freedom. I assure you that a food insecure family is not a free family."

Your support is helping women to empower themselves and become decision-makers in their communities. Thank you.

Feb 5, 2013

Feb Share the love this Valentine’s with Chicks & Chocolates

5
2013

We can do without the wilting roses, overpriced menus and cheesy rhymes on St. Valentine’s Day.

But chocolate is always welcome, especially when it comes in the form of Fair Trade milk chocolate hearts by Divine made with the finest cocoa, smooth cocoa butter and real vanilla.

And it’s even sweeter when coupled with our gift of life-changing chicks to make the perfect Valentine's Day gift - straight from the Oxfam Unwrapped range!

A Clutch of Chicks and Chocolates (€20/£16) funds projects in Zimbabwe – helping to provide nutritious eggs and other support for families living in poverty –  while you get a card and a lovely box of Divine chocolates to give to your special someone on February 14th.
 
 
CAPTIONS: Left: Janak and Sundari Singh stand next to the water pump Oxfam helped to build in their village in India. Once an arid yellow, their field is now green with crops all year round. “We would like our children to stay in our village when they are grown up. We don’t think they will have to move away now.” Rajendra Shaw/Oxfam. Right: Masumbuko and Grace have been through a lot. They live in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where Oxfam is helping people forced to flee their homes because of the fighting. “I fell in love with my wife the first time I saw her. There was just something about her – the way she was talking, the way she was walking, her nose and her ears. When I saw her I thought she was very, very beautiful. I can’t explain it. Some people may not think she is beautiful, but to me she is perfect.” Rankin/Oxfam
 
So to get your gift of Chicks & Chocs in time for Valentine's Day, simply order before Tuesday February 12th online.  Prefer to order by phone? Call 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland) between 9am - 5pm  Monday to Friday.
 
If you’re looking for other lovely gifts, choose from our extensive Oxfam Unwrapped range. Say ‘I love you’ by supporting women’s rights with Girl Power (€14/£11), sharing a passion for reading with School Books (€18/15), swapping the bubbly for Drinking Water for 3 Families (€25/£20) or making the future brighter with a Solar Panel (€32/£26).
 
Whichever gift you choose from our incredible Oxfam Unwrapped range, you’ll be helping to share the love this Valentine’s Day. Order by 3pm, Tuesday February 12th to guarantee delivery.
 
Jan 29, 2013

Jan Crisis in Syria

29
2013

The Syrian refugee crisis is accelerating with a dramatic increase in the numbers of people flowing across its borders.

Over one million refugees have now fled into neighbouring countries since the onset of the crisis in March 2011.

In Jordan alone there has been a three-fold increase in the daily rate of people escaping the war ravaged country in the last week. Now extreme winter weather is compounding misery for refugees, with an increase in respiratory infections and pneumonia recorded in clinics in Lebanon and Jordan.

 

 

CAPTIONS: Top: A woman and her child take shelter as a syrian air force jet bombs the streets surrounding her house in the  neighbourhood of Ahadarea, Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Sam Tarling / Oxfam. Middle: Refugees are flooding into camps in The Bekaa valley, trying to survive a harsh winter. Luca Sola/Oxfam. Bottom-left: Hanin Handan, 20, her husband Rasmi, 26, and their son. After their home was burned down during the fighting they fled Syria with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Luca Sola/Oxfam. Bottom-right: Samira arrived from Syria 3 days ago. She is living in a self made shelter with just one room, which she shares with 12 other people. She has no food, barely any blankets and is living in squalid conditions. Luca Sola/Oxfam.

Living in a self made shelter with just one room, Samira’s story encapsulates the challenges faced by many. A 45 year old widow (pictured above, right), she shares a home made from one wall of breezeblocks and plastic sheeting with 12 other people, including 7 of her eight children. 

The floor is wet and icy cold, outside snow melts into the ground creating icy mud. 

“It has been eight months since I left my home, I have no idea what happened to it we just had to leave it behind and escaped because of the fighting.” 

Like her, an estimated 670,000 people have fled violence in Syria to neighbouring countries since the onset of the crisis in March 2011.

Families have arrived exhausted and traumatised.  Some have faced bombs and bullets to get to refugee camps like Al Jaleel in the Beqaa Valley, which was originally built for Palestinians. 

Nestled between snow-covered mountains and shrouded in a thick blanket of fog, it is a safe haven for thousands fleeing the escalating conflict. 

Now, they are trying to get through one of the most brutal winters in the last two decades with almost nothing. 

One of them is Hanin Handan, who fled to Lebanon with her husband and son.

“All of our food is from food distributions, we have no money for food as we lost everything when our house burned down. We used to have a good life, my husband had a good job rearing chickens and we were happy. Now we have nothing left.”

Oxfam Ireland is launching a crisis appeal to help the tens of thousands affected by the continuing crisis in Syria.

Their homes destroyed and lives shattered, these ordinary people are eking out an existence, in camps with no heating or furniture during one of the most brutal winters in the last two decades.

We cannot put an end to the fighting. But with the right determination and resources, we can help make things better for the many Syrian families who have lost almost everything.

Jan 15, 2013

Jan How you’re supporting people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

15
2013

What value can you put on a human life: A million? A billion? Perhaps priceless?

How about €0.28/£0.23? That’s what it costs to provide a Malawian living with HIV with life-saving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

But for two-thirds of Malawians with HIV that price is too high.

This is a country poor even by African standards, and one which is ravaged by HIV. One million people – 1 in 12 – of the population are living with the virus.

On a recent visit to Malawi, Oxfam ambassador and actor Bill Nighy met with some of the people who have had their lives transformed by ARVs.

CAPTIONS: TOP-LEFT: Enoch, a Malawian farmer in his 60s, says anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs have kept him alive. Gus Gregory/Oxfam.  RIGHT: AIDS orphan Fanny Jeofry (16) in the Kayera District, Malawi. Your donations are helping to provide holistic care for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam. BOTTOM-LEFT: Actor and Oxfam ambassador Bill Nighy meets Mara Banda and some of her helpers. Mara runs a support programme for people with HIV near Malawi's capital Lilongwe. Gus Gregory/Oxfam.

Take Enoch, a farmer in his 60s, who has been living with HIV for 10 years: “If you’d seen me three years ago you wouldn’t think I was the same person. “I was very, sick, I couldn’t stand up. I’m alive today because of the medication I receive.”

Donations from our amazing supporters across the island of Ireland are enabling people living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi to know their rights to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services, and advocate for these rights locally and nationally.

We believe that the best people to assert these rights are community members themselves. That’s why we help local organisations get the resources and develop the skills needed to ensure the voices of those living with HIV and AIDS are heard. This means they’re helping to influence health policy and calling for increase in the allocation for people living with HIV and AIDS in national health budgets.

Your support is also helping to tackle the stigma that can surround people living with HIV and AIDS in their own communities, along with addressing harmful social practices that put women at risk of infection.

It’s also helping to provide a holistic package of care for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS, including psycho-social support and ensuring access to education. 

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Jan 11, 2013

Jan Haiti: three earthquake commemorations, three steps in reconstruction

11
2013

 

On January 12th, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. People across the island of Ireland made an incredible response to our emergency appeal, raising €1.1 million. Thanks to the generosity and solidarity of supporters like you, a lot of tangible progress has been made. However major challenges remain to rebuild Haiti. Three years on, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still living under tents and tarpaulins with very limited access to basic services, such as sanitation, health care and education.  
 
Urban planner Agathe Nougaret has been living and working in Haiti since December 2010. She joined Oxfam as an Urban Coordinator in August 2012. Here, she writes about finding hope as the third anniversary of the earthquake approaches.
 
I can’t believe it’s been three years already since the earthquake hit in January 2010. I wasn’t in Haiti for “le 12” (“the 12th” a local term to refer to the earthquake), I didn’t witness the mayhem and great solidarity with my own eyes. I arrived months after, when the reconstruction process was supposed to kick-off, once rescue teams and emergency settlement professionals had done their job.
 
 
 
CAPTIONS: Top-Left: “Buying drinkable water every day was not that easy for people in the neighbourhood. This is one more reason to value the Oxfam intervention,” says Andson Fils-Aimé, who helped build this protected spring-fed water-collection point in the Merger area. Photo: Anna Fawcus / Oxfam. Top-Right: A broken landmark in Croix-Desprez, Port-au-Prince. Photo: Agathe Nougaret/Oxfam. Bottom-left: This mountain of waste in Croix-Desprez, Port-au-Prince, is a daunting task for 2013. Agathe Nougaret/Oxfam Bottom-Right: Yvon Neptune (58): “I moved here in 2009, so I can tell what the difference is since Oxfam did the water captage and canalisation, and started its sensitisation campaign in 2011. This is the answer to the cholera threat and also to other waterborne diseases and malaria.” 

January, 12th, 2011

I spent the first anniversary of the earthquake on the steps of the destroyed cathedral, in downtown Port-au-Prince. In the middle of a political crisis, Haitians had stopped burning tyres to ask for their vote to be accounted for. Everyone gathered in front of this symbol of despair, dressed in white, screaming his or her pain. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t prepare for the questions. As a foreigner, many people came to me to ask why the international community was not rebuilding homes for the victims and stopping the cholera outbreak. I did my best to explain that the scale of the disaster took everyone aback, and setting up temporary settlements, camps in other words, was a complicated and tedious task. “There are less cholera victims in camps than anywhere else thanks to NGO efforts”, I said, but my voice got lost in the fervent religious clamour. What could I say, how could I justify the stalemate Haiti experienced? No available land, no government... I didn’t have words of comfort for the people suffering around me.

January 12th, 2012

Last year, I went to the Port-au-Prince cemetery for the second anniversary of the earthquake. There I met cemetery employees who had to deal with thousands of bodies days after the earthquake. Their stories sent shivers down my spine. Next to the 01/12 memorial sculpture newly built in the cemetery, I met a poet and a painter who explained to me how art helped them to cope with the trauma. They were hopeful, though. So much rubble had been cleared in the past year. The new president promised to take action for what really matters, education of Haitian kids. NGOs were starting to repair homes and even build permanent houses. Over the Christmas holiday, the camp in front of my office had been cleared by the Haitian government through a relocation programme run by international agencies. I was personally involved in this great movement, and I was proud. These first little steps were the hardest to take, as we were paving the way for an important scale-up in relocation and reconstruction efforts.
 

January 12th, 2013

I haven’t decided where I’ll spend the anniversary yet. I want to be somewhere significant, where I feel part of the Haitian community. I think I’ll choose the Villa Rosa slum, where I completed a NGO project last June, repairing and building 600 permanent homes. I don’t want to join the choir of critics who state that big land-owners will never help us rebuild the country, that the Government doesn’t have the means to do its job, that 358,000 people still live in camps. They might be right, but I want to celebrate our successes, this year. We have found ways to involve the community in planning, rebuilding and managing their neighbourhoods, and we’ve helped the government to see slums as a challenge, not as a threat. We’re working hard to convince donors to let us replicate this first set of pilot projects. The task was so daunting three years ago, but slowly, we’re getting there. That’s what I want to remember on January 12th.
 

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