Blog

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 24, 2013

Jul The joy of clean water in DRC

24
2013

“There is no way we can thank you other than through song and dance,” says Victorine, a representative of the local water committee as we are welcomed in the remote village of Mambingi in the north eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Up until June of this year, the community could only get water, the most basic of all human rights, from an unprotected local spring. They had to pass through thick forest vegetation where women felt vulnerable to get there and were often bitten by snakes attracted to the surrounding palm oil trees.

Today, thanks to our supporters at home and our local partners Hyfro, Mambingi has some 16 water points spread throughout the village managed proudly by local committees.

Importantly, the water is clean and safe. This reduces the risk of spread of preventable diseases such as cholera and dysentery, which regularly plague communities forced to drink whatever water may flow nearby.

Clockwise from top: Oxfam Humanitarian Coordinator Michael O’Riordan measures the flow rate from a new water point constructed in DRC with the support of Irish Aid. Women in DRC often have to travel huge distances to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing. A young girl collects clean filtered water from the newly constructed water points in the village of Kahamba in DRC. A young boy demonstrates the use of simple innovative hand washing facilities made from locally available materials and a simple plastic container located next to a latrine. By pressing on the stick with his foot, the boy tilts the plastic container which causes water to flow shower like from holes made in the side. Good hygiene practice such as this greatly reduces the risk of spread of preventable communicable disease.  Photos: Colm Byrne / Oxfam.

Victorine laughs at me when we ask how long she now has to travel to get to water. Leaning across and stretching out her hand, she says: “No time at all. It is right beside us.”

Mambingi is just one of 12 villages in the region which have benefitted this year from new water distribution systems with the support of Oxfam.

In the process, community members have learned the skills needed to build and care for not only these new facilities but also 577 newly constructed latrines which ensure the safe disposal of human waste without infection of local water sources. Critically, such new skills ensure community well-being not only now but their capacity and independence in doing so well into the future.

Unfortunately, not all communities in DRC are so fortunate. Twenty years of conflict in the country have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in repeated mass movements of people within the country and across its borders.

The conflict, a product of complex international, national, local, ethnic and tribal interests frequently related to competition for the country’s particular mineral wealth, has undermined growth and development. In turn, this has created a fragile political, social and economic context where most people fail to benefit from the country’s rich natural resources and where the reach of state services such as water, health and agriculture is limited if present at all.

Not long after meeting Victorine, as we prepare to leave the region, word reaches us that still more fighting has broken out and that tens of thousands of people only a few hours’ drive away have been forced to flee across the border to Uganda. Yet another tragic event in the history of DRC where life, like the water that sustains it, remains as precious as ever.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

Jul 18, 2013

Jul Shroom to grow: Helping women in Rwanda to thrive

18
2013

The ancient Romans believed mushrooms provided their warriors with extra strength and today in Rwanda they are helping modern superwomen like Mediatrice Mukantwari to thrive.

She has learned new farming skills thanks to Oxfam’s partner G7 Enterprises in Kirehe, Rwanda.

Clockwise from top: Mediatrice Mukantwari, mother, mushroom producer and community facilitator, sitting with her son, Kevin. As a result of growing, harvesting and selling mushrooms, women mushrom producers like Mediatrice have been able to dramatically increase their incomes and improve their status and independence. Mediatrice feeding the family's rabbits at home. Photos: Simon Rawles / Oxfam.
 

The company makes mushroom tubes which are then bought by local women who grow them close to their homes.

As a result of growing, harvesting and selling their mushrooms, women producers like Mediatrice have dramatically increased their income.

They either sell the mushrooms to neighbours or sell them back to G7 Enterprises, who can sell in bulk to restaurants and hotels or further afield.

Mediatrice says: “It’s really important for us as women to be independent in life… I know if I need something for myself I can just sell mushrooms and be independent".

 
Clockwise from top: Mediatrice selecting leaves from her vegetable patch. Mediatrice preparing a meal using mushrooms for her family. Mushrooms are a new crop for many in Rwanda but growing in popularity. Photos: Simon Rawles / Oxfam.

In 2012, 1,513 small-holder women farmers in Rwanda were supported to make a sustainable way of living through greater access to credit, training on new agricultural techniques and new business partnerships between the women and medium–sized enterprises engaged in horticulture.

This project is one of many changing lives for the better around the world.

The Romans believed mushrooms made them strong. At Oxfam, we know what our real strength is – supporters like you who are making amazing things happen every single day.

Thank you.

Jul 9, 2013

Jul Reema’s story - a 12 Year old Syrian refugee in Lebanon

9
2013

Reema (12) lives on the first floor of a house still under construction in Lebanon. There are piles of rubble and concrete all around. There are no windows, no comfort. She sleeps in a small ‘room’ with her parents and four siblings. Rats are frequent visitors.

A year ago her home in Syria was destroyed by the bombings. In the time that followed she moved with her family from place to place, one of the 1.6 million Syrians who have no fled their war torn country in search of refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and further afield.

By the end of the year, close to 3.5 million Syrians are expected to have fled.

“I used to enjoy writing before but since coming here, after this tragedy” says Reema. “I wake up in the morning and I see children going to school and I cry why don’t I have the right to go to school and I sit here and I remember our home back in Syria before the fighting.”

Clockwise from top: ‘I don’t want my photograph to be taken because I’m afraid that when we go back something might happen to us.’ Reema (not her real name) has been writing moving poetry about her situation and desire to return to Syria. This stark, un-plumbed room serves as a toilet and bathroom for Reema, 12, and her family in Tripoli, Lebanon. Remma shares her story with Oxfam Communications Officer, Jane Beesley. Photos: Sam Tarling / Oxfam.
 

A year ago it was destroyed by the bombings. Now she is one of 750,000 young Syrian refugees.

“I miss my friends,” she says, “I miss my teachers. I miss my classes, my English classes, my Arabic classes, my music classes. Now I’m just sitting here every day.”

She spends her spare time writing poetry, remembering her home and longing to go back to it. 

This is part of one of them:

When I take my pencil and notebook,
What shall I write about?

Shall I write about my school,
my house or my land of which I was deprived?

My school, when will I visit you again
take my bag and run to you?

My school is no longer there
Now, destruction is everywhere
No more students
No more ringing bells
My school has turned into stones scattered here and there

Shall I write about my house that I no longer see
where I can no longer be,
Shall I write about flowers which now smell destruction?
Syria, my beloved country
Will I ever return back to you?
I had so many dreams
None of them will come true
 

Clockwise from top: Reema's shoes, the only items other than her clothes she took with her from Syria. Reema's sketchbook. Reema's notebook. Photos: Sam Tarling / Oxfam.

Reema’s family will receive two payments of $150 dollars as part of Oxfam’s cash transfer programme. This money is intended to help families like Reema’s pay their rent over the next two months.

Families like hers are in desperate need of shelter, food, water and medical care. We're scaling up our response to help families through the coming months.

Please give what you can today.

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!

Pages