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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!

Get involved

Please share this blog post on social media using the share icons at the top of the page.  You can also use #G8 to tweet us your wishes for the G8 Summit - we'll retweet and blog the best ones we receive!

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Jun 5, 2013

Jun Fight poverty and enjoy big music events for free!

5
2013
Fancy a free ticket to see Justin Timberlake, Snow Patrol or The Killers? Or how about Bon Jovi, Basement Jaxx, Mumford & Sons or Kings of Leon? Or maybe you prefer big festivals like Electric Picnic, Longitude or Oxegen? 
 
Over the next few months our team of volunteer stewards, activists and shop assistants will attend Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Longitude, Tennants Vital, Belsonic, Aviva stadium shows, Phoenix Park shows and more to be announced.

 

Clockwise from top: Aisling Sheridan and Siobhan Hogan working as volunteer stewards at Oxegen. Gavin James at the OxJam stage at Electric Picnic. Festival Revellers and Gardaí pose for Oxfam’s Ending Poverty Starts With Women campaign at Electric Picnic. Karen Sheridan (Slow Skies) Oxjamming. Photos: Ger Murphy / Oxfam.
 
Volunteer stewards work as low-level security at the events with the money donated by festival organisers going to help Oxfam fight poverty, while volunteer activists engage festival goers by spreading the word about our Ending Poverty Starts with Women campaign. Volunteer shop assistants look after the Oxfam festival shop, raising money for our life-changing projects around the world. All volunteers must be over 18 on the day of the event.
 
You’ll gain access to festivals and concerts free of change, get to meet and work alongside some amazing fellow volunteers and help us fight poverty and injustice together while seeing some of the biggest acts in music. Win-win!
 
Whichever event you lend a hand at, you'll get to enjoy some of best live music the summer has to offer!
 
 
Places are filling up fast, so sign up as a volunteer now!
May 28, 2013

May First impressions mask difficult reality of life in a Syrian refugee camp

28
2013

Before I arrived in Jordan, Zaatari Refugee Camp in my mind had taken on almost mythical proportions. I had heard that it was initially constructed to accommodate a population of 35,000 but was now rumoured to have a registered population of more than 130,000. And frighteningly, not the largest refugee camp in the world.

As I approached by car, it seems strange to say but I was disappointed by first impressions. Zaatari refugee camp sits atop a relatively flat landscape not far from the Syrian border and without an aerial view the sense of scale I had imagined was impossible to view.

 

Above: The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is a sprawling city with rows of tents as far as the eye can see. Anastasia Taylor-Lind/Oxfam

Surrounded by a high wire fence for security, it appears orderly with its seemingly evenly spaced rows of regulation refugee tents. It is solid underfoot too with crushed stone to prevent muddying caused by vehicles and human traffic in winter rain. And either side of the road that leads from the main entrance is a remarkable array of market stalls selling everything from fruit, vegetables and cooked food to clothes and toys and household basics sourced from local traders outside the camp. The refugees from Syria have proven themselves to be remarkably self-reliant and resourceful.

“It doesn’t seem that bad,” a companion commented. Indeed there is much about Zaatari that on first appearances “doesn’t seem that bad”…if the alternative is to be trapped in a bitter conflict that has left an estimated 70,000 dead and forced another 6 million (yes, million) people to flee their homes.

First impressions too of course can be deceptive and as the morning and hours passed, the realities of life in the refugee camp became more apparent…more than anything else the sense of confinement, the restricted space, the lack of opportunity to escape even for just a short time from the heaving bustling hive of activity. 

Clockwise from top:  Clothes drying on a high-wire fence in the camp. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Oxfam public health staff put the finishing touches to 95,000 litre water tanks that will considerably increase the water storage capacity in the refugee camp. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. A woman and child gather water in the camp where Oxfam has installed tap stands and towers, latrines, bathing areas, laundry areas, water collection points and wash blocks. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam. Syrian children in the camp share a smile. Karl Schembri/Oxfam. Syrian refugees arrive at the camp, originally built for 35,000 but now accommodating more than 130,000. Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.

And as we moved beyond the road that once formed the main axis of the camp, it is with regret that I say my expectations of scale were finally met. Row upon row upon row of tents dominated the horizon as far as the eye could see. This was no camp. This was a sprawling city, ironically the significance of which is only best understood when you see the enormity of the blank canvas of land that has been cleared to accommodate still more tents and, more recently, prefabs.

Later, faces pressed against the fence outside a health clinic where lines of mothers and young children queued served only again to re-enforce the sense of claustrophobia and suggesting that, despite best efforts, supply of services had outstripped demand. It could hardly be otherwise. 

Organisations like Oxfam are working closely with the refugee population to provide access to the most basic of human needs such as clean water and washing facilities but the scale of need is frankly overwhelming…1,500 people arrive on average each day. I wondered how we in Ireland would cope with such an influx. More importantly still, how do the Syrian refugees cope?

Refugee camps are rarely constructed as homes but places of temporary refuge until it is safe to go home or some alternative option is found. Almost as though lives can be put on hold while diplomats, like economists, trade options...and futures...of those whose recent past, and perhaps even lives, have been comprised of choices few of us could ever even conceive.

As I write now amidst a flurry of international activity to bring about a resolution to the conflict, I hear that the influx of refugees across the border into Jordan has almost ceased. And then the question, why? And quickly the realisation that those in Zaatari are the lucky ones...they were able to flee. And it is then you understand the true meaning of “it doesn’t seem that bad”.

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