Blog

Oct 2, 2013

Oct The truth behind sugar: anything but sweet

2
2013

Too often, the sugar in your favourite food and drinks is sourced by kicking farmers and their families off their land. This leaves people homeless and hungry. But you can change this.

Tell Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods (ABF) to make sure their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs.

As global demand for sugar increases, so does the rush for land to grow it.

Oxfam has found that, in countries like Brazil and Cambodia, companies that supply sugar to Coke, Pepsi and other food and beverage giants are kicking poor farmers off their land and robbing them of their rights. Elsewhere, ABF - the biggest sugar producer in Africa - is reported as linked to a range of other unresolved land disputes.

The power of you

More than 120,000 people around the world have already called on the world’s biggest food companies to change the way they do business in our Behind the Brands campaign. And it’s working.

And with the support of more than 50,000 people and Coldplay, we’ve already won some important victories in the fight against land grabs. Our campaigning pushed the World Bank to review its policies on land and commit to a new UN standard on land rights.

Now it’s time for these three sugar giants to act first and fast in phase two of our Behind the Brands campaign.

 

Stop land grabs

To make sure that their sugar doesn’t lead to land grabs, Coke, Pepsi and ABF need to:

  • Know how their sugar impacts communities’ access to land, and whether they and their suppliers are respecting land rights;
  • Show where the ingredients they use come from – and who grows them;
  • Act by committing to zero tolerance for land grabs, throughout their supply chains and their own operations.

Work with governments and others to do the same. It’s time to put a stop to land grabs. Sign the petition now.

Mary Quinn is Oxfam Ireland’s Campaign and Outreach Executive.

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.

Sep 9, 2013

Sep The day our sweet baby was born

9
2013

Oxfam Campaigner Rachel Edwards meets Liqaa', a 23 year old refugee from Syria, who now lives in Za'atari refugee camp, in Jordan.

Following news from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees that the number of registered refugees fleeing Syria has reached 2 million, it would be easy to lose sight of how everyday miracles are still possible amid a crisis of such staggering proportions. 

Liqaa’, 23 year old refugee from Syria, moved to Za’atari refugee camp, heavily pregnant, earlier this year. Last month, she gave birth to a healthy little girl named Limar. 

Above: Limar was born on 3 August the first child of Liqaa’ and Bassel who currently live in Zaatari camp in Jordan. Photos: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

When we went to see her, Liqaa’ told us about Limar’s arrival:

"It was such a beautiful day for me and for my husband [Basel] to see this sweet baby. I was so happy. After giving birth I was tired but after seeing her I forgot about my tiredness. 

But on what was one of the happiest days of her life, she was overcome with the sadness of being unable to share this magical day with the rest of her family back in Syria. 

"I missed my family so much on that day. I was crying, and until now I miss them... and think of going back but it's not safe. I wanted to go to give birth in Syria and be next to my family but it was too dangerous”.

Although Liqaa’ had become accustomed to the way of life in Za’atari refugee camp, after birth she realised how much she had under-estimated the hardship of raising a child in a refugee camp.

"It's so difficult to raise a baby here. The climate is too hot for her during the day, and in the night it's so cold. Hospitals here are not that good to get medicines and medical services. Adults can get by with the services we have here but for children it's much harder."

Liqaa’ and Basel’s story is not unique. With the snail’s pace of progress towards finding a political solution to the conflict, they won’t be the last to become new parents in such circumstances 

Liqaa’ also told us what becoming a new mum meant for her thoughts about the best way forward for Syria now: 

"We need peace in Syria for our children. Now that I've given birth to Limar it's even more important for me and for her to have our country back, for her to grow up there with our family. What I wish from the international community is to help the Syrian people to find a political solution, to help us to go back to our country, to our life, to our future”. 

More than 100,000 lives have been lost in the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation. We must now support and give hope back to LIqaa’ and her family, and the millions of Syrians like them, as soon as possible. "I look forward to going back to Syria as soon as possible."

Above: With more than 100,000 people already killed in Syria, and two million people having fled to neighbouring countries, Oxfam Ireland staged media stunts in Dublin and Belfast calling on world leaders at this week’s G20 in St. Petersburg to intensify their efforts for a peaceful, political solution to end the bloodshed and the suffering of the Syrian people. Photos top and lower-right: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland Photo lower-left: Matt Mackey/ Press Eye

A generation of Syrians is paying too high a price in this conflict. Limar is just one of the 2 million refugees who have been seriously let down by the international community, which has failed to prioritise a political solution to the conflict. That must change. World leaders - especially President Obama and President Putin - must ensure the long-promised peace talks take place as soon as possible.

The announcement of the two millionth refugee, and this week’s G20 meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia, prompted Oxfam Ireland to repeat the call for the international community to find an urgently-needed political solution to the crisis. 

Oxfam staged campaign stunts in Dublin and Belfast city centres, with volunteers laying white flowers among rows of white gravestones to mark how more than 100,000 lives have been lost in Syria.  

It is the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in a generation, and Oxfam Ireland is warning that the scale of the Syria crisis is rapidly deepening. Every day more refugees cross the borders into neighbouring countries – often traumatised and in need of the basics: food, water and shelter. But the humanitarian response to the crisis is stretched to the limit.

OXFAM’S RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS IN SYRIA

Oxfam has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 200,000 refugees who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan since the start of the year. We're providing water and sanitation facilities in Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, and to families living in temporary settlements in both Lebanon and Jordan; as well as providing cash support to families living in rented accommodation and settlements in both countries. 

Funds are short but with more money Oxfam would be able to scale up its response to the crisis. Oxfam hopes to have reached 650,000 people by the end of the year, in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Aug 28, 2013

Aug Reboot this term with our refurbished Born Again computers

28
2013

Whether it’s back to school, going to college or continuing on at the university of life, we’ve got your technology needs sorted this term with our fully refurbished Born Again computers!

Great value and eco-friendly, students and families can get a high quality computer for a fraction of the cost new while diverting machines away from local landfill and raising vital funds for our projects around the world.

 

Available online or from many Oxfam shops, it’s an amazing range at affordable prices – starting at €120/£99 for a desktop and €180/£150 for a laptop.

Above: Prices start at just €120 for a desktop and €180 for a laptop in Oxfam’s new Born Again range of recycled computers. On the screen is teacher Daudi Mulenger teaching his class in an Oxfam-supported pre-school in Noomunye, Tanzania. A new classroom was completed after this picture was taken. Geoff Sayer/Oxfam

Each Born Again computer has been lovingly restored, tested and supplied with a fresh operating system and applications, plus a six-month warranty.

Divided into three spec/usage categories, the Surfer desktop (€120/£99) and laptop (€180/£150) is perfect for general use, while students and families looking for even faster computers with more storage can explore Plus (desktops €180/£150 and laptops at €240) and Pro options (desktops at €240/£199 and laptops at €290/£225).

Every desktop and laptop sold will help to change the lives in people in severe poverty by supporting our worldwide, such as our emergency response to situations like the current Syria crisis, long-term development projects and campaigning work.

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.
 

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