Blog

Mar 13, 2013

Mar ‘Why I left private sector to help Syrian refugees with Oxfam’

13
2013
Amid a sea of male construction and site workers in Jordan’s sprawling Zaatari desert camp, female engineer Farah Al-Basha stands out from the crowd. 
 
The energetic 27 year-old Jordanian joined our team earlier this year, quitting her job at a private engineering company to work for Oxfam. 
 
Instead of working on military and defence contracts and designing underground bunkers, she now helps to oversee work building toilet and shower blocks and installing water tanks at Zataari’s refugee camp. She’s been involved in drawing up quality, safety and inspection plans; liaising with and advising contractors; and carrying out on-site inspections to ensure standards are met at every stage along the construction project.   

 
Clockwise from top: Farah describes her role as an Oxfam engineer as “a life-changing experience”. Farah oversees and inspects the work of the all-male labourers and ensures everything goes to plan. Farah has written the word ‘rejected’ on this cement floor, which means the contractors will have to rebuild it to a higher standard. She carries out on-site inspections to ensure standards are met at every stage along the construction project. Photos: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.
 
“I wanted to work with an NGO to help people here, to try to do something more for the community. For me, work shouldn’t just be about the money,” she says. 
 
But Farah admits her first visit to the camp was a bit of a shock. “It was the first time I have ever been to a refugee camp and, honestly, it was overwhelming”, she said. “I had only seen this on television, not first-hand. I realised this job was going to be totally different in terms of what it required of me than my previous work.   
“It’s been a life-changing experience for me. Helping to change people’s lives is not an easy thing to do. It’s also a difficult thing to realise that, as much as you want, you can’t help everyone everywhere.” 
 
In Zaatari camp, Farah is a woman on a mission: determined to show that women engineers are just as capable as their male counterparts and making sure she is up to date on all the latest reading and research to make sure that no-one can fault her. Her day-to-day work involves overseeing and inspecting the work of the (all-male) labourers and making sure everything goes to plan – or if it doesn’t, finding solutions to daily problems.   
 
“Every day is crazy and every day is really busy,” says Farah. 
 
When I visit, she points out wide cracks in the cement floor of a new block which will house toilets and showers. “Look, the cracks are so wide,” she says, pointing to the floor where she has marked in red ink the words “rejected”.   
 
“This will cause problems… the contractors will have to fix it,” she says, shaking her head.     
 
She’s firm but polite as she speaks to the contractors, pointing out the problem. But they accept what she says. “I’m very demanding and quite strict, but they respect me. They realise I am not here for a fashion show, but I’m an expert and know what I’m talking about.   
 
“Every day, big groups of women and children follow me as I work in the camp,” she says. “The girls say they see me as a kind of role model and say they’d like to do work like me when they are older. 
 
“The children in the camp love to see us work: they make sure they are awake and up and about when we arrive in the camp for our day’s work.” 
 
Farah had hoped to recruit an all-female team to work with her: but the first female junior engineer she hired quit after a few days into the job. “There are many women engineers in Jordan, but most chose not work on-site but stay working in offices. I’ve been working as an engineer for the last six years and I’m always the only female engineer on site.” 
 
Undaunted by some of the setbacks, Farah is full of plans and ideas. She’s hoping to pass on some basic engineering and plumbing skills to some people in the camp; and to get women there more involved with the work Oxfam is doing. 
 
Spending most of her days in the camp, she says, is a tiring but rewarding experience. 
 
“We’re surrounded by children for most of the day. We walk together, we eat together, we share stories and dreams. When the time comes to leave the camp, we get into our car, tired and exhausted with messy hair and dirty jeans, with our faces a bit more darkened by the sun than the day before.   
 
“We’re thinking about how lovely a bubbly shower will be, but before closing the doors, the kids come and say: ‘See you tomorrow’ and we close the doors with a big smile, forget about how dirty we are, or how lovely this bubbly shower will be and we start thinking about what can we do next for those kids.”
 
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 20, 2013

Feb Let’s Get Together to celebrate International Women’s Day

20
2013

Coffee and cupcakes, curry nights, style swops, jewellery-making classes, fashion shows and even a gospel choir performance – anything goes as our amazing supporters get ready to host their Get Together events.

We’re hoping you’ll be able to join us in celebrating International Women’s Day (Friday March 8th) by organising something simple and something fun with friends, family or colleagues – whatever and whenever you choose.

As part of our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign, your Get Together will help raise vital funds for our work, which puts women’s rights at its heart. 

 

CAPTIONS: Top: People across the island of Ireland are getting ready to host Get Together events and raise vital funds for Oxfam. Top-left: Oxfam is helping to provide legal advice and training to rice farmers like Halima Shida so she can maintain ownership of her land, one of the biggest issues facing women farmers in Tanzania. Barry McCall/Oxfam. Top-right: Dolores Benitez outside a radio station in Honduras where an Oxfam partner broadcasts a show educating women in the area about their rights. Gilvan Barreto/Oxfam. Bottom-left: By forming an Oxfam-supported cooperative for honey harvesting in Ethiopia, these women can earn an income. Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam. Bottom-right: Oxfam ambassador Sharon Corr meets Ester Jerome Mtegule, a Tanzanian farmer who shares her innovative farming methods for the benefit of her entire community. Barry McCall/Oxfam

Women are more likely to be poor, go hungry and be kept out of school.

We know that poverty has a female face – but so does the solution. If women farmers had the same access to land, tools, seeds and credit as men, they could grow enough food to feed more than 100 million of the world’s hungriest people.

Our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign ambassador Sharon Corr has travelled to Tanzania to see first-hand how your support can change the lives of women for the better.

"Meeting some of the women who have benefited from Oxfam’s work in Tanzania was truly inspiring,” she explains. “The majority of people living in poverty are women. It’s fantastic to see how Oxfam can help women reclaim their rights and make their voices heard; from supporting female farmers to tackling domestic violence."

"An Oxfam Get Together is simple. Just organise something fun with the people you love spending time with – and help raise vital funds that will transform the lives of women affected by poverty and injustice around the world.”

Feb 12, 2013

Feb What’s IF all about?

12
2013

The world produces enough food to feed everyone – but not everyone has enough to eat.

That has inspired Oxfam and 100 other organisations to mount a huge joint campaign on hunger. 

Enough Food for Everyone IF is about ending the greatest scandal of our age – that one in eight people go to bed hungry every night in a world which produces enough food for everyone. 
 
 
CAPTIONS: Top: IF comes together at the Belfast launch. Middle-left: Enough Food For Everyone IF we use land for food not fuel. Women pictured here in a garden program at the Integrated health Centre in Aguie in the Tessaoua region of Niger. Photo: Nyani Quarmyne. Middle-right: Six-month-old Maniratou Mahamadou, held by her mother, Habsatou Salou, smiles after a nutrition screening at the Boukoki Integrated Health Centre in Niamey, the capital. Enough for everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying of hunger. Photo: Nyani Quarmyne. Bottom row: IF teaser's spelt out using food, piano keys and inflated at Derry Peace Bridge.
More than 140 people spelt it out in Belfast in January to unveil the IF campaign and be the first to sign up. You may have missed the wet shoes and standing around in the snow – but you can sign up too right here and find out the latest on the campaign here.
 
Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Two million children die each year because of malnutrition. Food prices continue to rise making it even harder for families, including here at home, to put food on the table. The food system is broken.
But there can be enough food for everyone:
 
IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families have enough food to live.
 
IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and we grow crops to feed people not fuel cars.
 
IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.
 
IF we force governments and investors are open and honest about the actions that prevent people getting enough food.
 
We need you to join us to end the scandal of hunger. Leaders – coming to Fermanagh for the G8 in June - will listen IF we act together and act now.
 
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.
 

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