Inequality

Increase in overseas develop aid welcome but Ireland must do more to meet target – Oxfam Ireland

Commitment on equality and gender proofing and consultation on reforming tax policy also welcomed 

10 October 2017

The announcement in today’s budget an increase of €13 million to Ireland’s Overseas Development Aid (ODA) budget is a positive step but a clear plan is still needed on how Ireland intends to meet the 0.7% target in ODA spending, Oxfam Ireland said today.

Oxfam Ireland also welcomed the progress made in terms of equality and gender proofing as well as the decision to roll-out a public consultation on reforming Ireland’s corporate tax regime.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Last year, Ireland’s expenditure on its overseas development programme represented just 0.33% of GDP, less than half of the agreed UN target of 0.7%.

“We welcome the announcement in today’s budget of an increase in ODA and we are encouraged by both the Taoiseach’s and Minister Coveney’s stated commitment to reaching the UN target.

We now look forward to Ireland producing a tangible roadmap and timetable detailing how this will be achieved.

Successive opinion polls have shown that the Irish public fully supports meeting the 0.7% target. In addition, achieving our commitment on aid gives Ireland influence in international discussions and shows we keep our promises.”

Oxfam recognised the government's progress in the area of tax reform. “We welcome the announcement of a public consultation process to review Ireland’s tax code and hope this can build on and enhance the findings from the recent report undertaken by Seamus Coffey into addressing corporate tax avoidance which must be addressed for the benefit of both this country and the world’s poorest nations," said Mr Clarken.

“When companies don’t pay their fair share of taxes, it’s the poorest who are hit the hardest, missing out on essential services like healthcare and education. It's important that this process is broad enough to take account of all options.”

On the commitments regarding gender and equality proofing, Mr Clarken continued: "Gender equality should be central to the policy making process and we welcome the steps taken to ensure budgetary choices will reduce inequality and discrimination within our society.”

 

ENDS

Daniel English

Desk: +353 (0) 1 635 0422

Mobile: +353 (0) 86 3544954

Following the announcement of Budget 2018 and this reaction, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued the following: “Mr Coveney corrected a figure presented by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in his budget speech. The €13 million figure that he announced is the Irish Aid increase but the ODA figure is actually increasing by €26 million.”

Oxfam shows 'We Care' in Zimbabwe

For families in many parts of the world household tasks such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, collecting water and caring for dependents take a huge amount of time and energy. Limited access to time-saving equipment, public infrastructure and services exacerbates this situation.

For women, domestic and care work is often heavy, inefficient and unequally distributed. Women globally spend, on average, more than twice as long as men on unpaid work – that can mean as much as five hours per day on household tasks like laundry and cooking, and on caring for children and family. It can mean less time spent learning new skills, earning money or taking an active role in the community. This limits women’s choices and undermines efforts to achieve gender equality and overcome poverty. Oxfam’s We Care initiative aims to change this.

Why Oxfam cares about care

Care has long been considered the responsibility of women. As a result, providing care falls disproportionately on their shoulders – limiting women’s time to learn, to earn or to take part in political and social activities of their choice. This is an issue in every country; however, the effects of unequal care are more extreme in poor communities. Tasks such as laundry and cooking can take most of the day when there is limited access to water and fuel, let alone washing machines or stoves. Drivers of poverty, such as lack of services and exposure to disasters, increase the demand for care work – preventing women’s empowerment and trapping families in poverty.

Ulita Mutambo said: “We started the ‘We Care’ programme in 2014, that’s when things changed for the better. At first my husband did not help me at all. I would do all the work on my own, carrying firewood from the mountains, fetching water from the borehole which is far from here. Things got better when he accepted to join the programme and started helping me. Now the work is lighter. 

“The chores that have to be done are laundry, fetching water, cooking, bathing the children, as well as working in the fields. When I had just got married I would do all the work, my husband would only help now and then. Now we help each other. While I do the washing, cooking or sweeping, my husband goes to fetch water. After that we go together to collect firewood. Getting help is good because now I get time to rest. Before we joined the programme I would never have time to rest.

“Now that I have free time, I can help my children with their homework. Before the We Care programme, I never had time to help my children with school work, so I am happy. I am also able to spend time with my children, getting closer to them. The programme has changed life a lot within this family. We now live together in harmony as a family.”

(Top) Ulita Mutambo (26) stands with her husband Muchineripi Sibanda (36), her son Blessing, 9, and Sandra, 6, outside their home in Ture Village, Zvishevane region, Zimbabwe. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Ulita with her young nephew outside her home. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top) Ulita and her husband Muchineripi walk to collect water from an Oxfam-built water pump just over 1km from their home. (Bottom left) Ulita and Muchineripi take a break from farming together in their corn field close to where they live. (Bottom right) Muchineripi helps Ulita with the laundry in a nearby river . Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top-Left) Ulita’s husband Muchineripi helps her hang up laundry outside their home. (Top right) Muchineripi with Sandra outside their home. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Sandra relaxes in a wheelbarrow. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

Bloom 2017 - A World Beyond Walls

Friday, May 26th: In recent years, new border walls and fences have materialised across the world. In total, there are now 63 borders where walls or fences separate neighbouring countries. Most of them have been constructed within the European Union. At this year’s Bloom festival (Thursday June 1st to Monday June 5th in Dublin's Phoenix Park), Oxfam Ireland and GOAL are pushing back against the border wall.

Our joint Bloom garden will open a window into ‘A World Beyond Walls’ highlighting the need for a more inclusive global society, at a time of growing division across the world.

Oxfam GOAL garden at Bloom 2017

Designed by Niall Maxwell, the Oxfam Ireland and GOAL Garden will be a vibrant, community space at the imagined location of a former border wall.

Some of the concrete-like slabs have been removed from the structure and placed in front of the old wall to create the form and function of a garden, or social space, to be enjoyed by all.

What were once parts of an oppressive obstruction will become communal seating areas where the weary can rest, where children can play, where families can picnic, and where artists can perform.

Through a grit-gravel surface, a diverse planting scheme will soften the harsh concrete angles of the garden, and a light airy canopy of trees will provide shelter and shade.

‘The Oxfam Ireland and GOAL Garden – A World Beyond Walls’ will be a space for all members of society to enjoy in a spirit of harmony and unity.

Right to Refuge campaign

We’re inviting visitors to Bloom to support our Right to Refuge campaign – we’re calling upon the Irish government to remove the barriers that tear families seeking refuge apart and to allow families to come safely to this country.

Right now, refugee children over the age of 18 are separated from parents and younger siblings, grandparents are separated from grandchildren and children travelling alone cannot reach extended family settled in Ireland who want to welcome and protect them. If you would like to learn more about this campaign, please talk to the Oxfam Ireland team at the Oxfam and GOAL Garden, or visit the Oxfam Campaigns Tent, which is located in the Conservation Zone. Using virtual reality headsets, visitors to the tent can experience the life of a woman in Iraq forced to flee her home.

To vote for the Oxfam and GOAL garden, text GARDEN8 to 51500 (standard SMS rates apply). Vote before 13:00hrs on Monday, 5th June. Votes after this time will not be counted but text votes may be charged. Please follow the voting instructions exactly or your vote may not come through. ONE vote per person per garden only. SMS Provider: Puca, +353 1 499 5939. Votes open to ROI & NI residents only.

Hunger Crisis Appeal: major food shortages across Africa

20 February 2017

I am Colm Byrne, Oxfam’s humanitarian programme manager. I have just returned from Niger, a country in the Lake Chad region in West Africa where already pockets of famine have been reported and large numbers of people are dying due to malnutrition and diarrhoea.  As you may have heard in the news, famine has recently been declared in South Sudan. This is another country where I have seen first-hand the scale of the hunger crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.

With household food stocks scarce and food prices rising in the absence of production, many families are struggling to survive in the Lake Chad region where some seven million people simply cannot find enough food to eat.

Across the Chad Basin region, new mothers, their children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable as a result of the hunger crisis gripping the region where currently 1 out of every 3 children is suffering from malnutrition.

Above: Aamin, who is two and half years old and badly malnourished is held by his mother Aisha, 35, at at a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Oxfam is helping people here with sanitation and protection issues. 

Hunger, wherever it exists, is cruel. Worst of all, its deadly. Malnutrition is one of the largest causes of child death in this region – and children in drought-affected regions such as this are most at risk.

I heard so many harrowing stories of the hunger faced by vulnerable people. Families like Aisha* and her young son Aamin* pictured above are an all-too common sight for Oxfam staff. Aisha is living in a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri in Niger, and two-and-a-half-year-old Aamin is severely malnourished.

By donating now, you can act quickly to make sure that people like Aisha and Aamin do not go hungry. Your support can help stop people’s rapid decline into malnutrition or famine.

We’ve already reached many thousands of people with food, water, livelihoods support, sanitation and hygiene kits in response to the hunger crisis in Niger and the Lake Chad region. We have distributed cooking equipment and provided seeds and tools to help traders and farmers. But our aim this year is to reach over 1.5 million people with life-saving assistance before it is too late.

Can you please help us reach that target?

In southern Africa, Malawi is also experiencing a major food crisis. The worst drought in decades has meant that people cannot grown food to feed their families. February is the lean time’ between harvests when typically there is little food to eat. But, today, there is barely any food at al. In a country like Malawi, where 9 in 10 people rely on farming, this drought has brought communities to the brink of catastrophe and a national state of emergency has been declared.

Oxfam is supporting people such as Julis Magawa in Malawi. The eyes of this proud and dignified man betray his sadness and the hardship this family man has endured.

He told us that his children had been crying because they were so hungry. I can only imagine how devastating it must be to know that day after day your children don’t have enough food to eat. Like so many others in Malawi, Julius has had to resort to desperate measures just to keep his family alive.

Speaking to Oxfam, Julius confessed he’d been so afraid for his wife Lucy and their children that he’d been driven to do something he hated doing. He’d been forced to break the law. Julius has again and again gone into the nearby forest and cut down trees for firewood. He’d sold this firewood for a pittance – but it was just enough as he told our staff with starting honesty. “It’s the only way I can feed my children.”

How would any of us behave in this situation? I simply don’t know. But I do know that Julius doesn’t want to break the law. He just wants to keep his children alive.

Above: Julius and Lucy struggle to feed their children.

With a targeted injection of cash from Oxfam, we can help him to buy food from the local market so he can feed his family over the coming months. We can also give him the seeds to grow new crops. That way we can help Julius earn his living safely – and keep the whole family out of poverty.

By sending a gift today, you can help Dads like Julius to support their family in a safe and sustainable way. You can help mums like Aisha to feed their children without having to resort to begging.

The displaced families and communities I visited count among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We now live in a world where 1 in 9 people goes to bed hungry every night. It’s obscene that while this is happening across the world today we know that just 8 men have as much wealth as the 3.6 million people who make up the poorer half of humanity.

We will not eliminate extreme poverty unless countries begin to close the gap between the richest and the rest. But in the meantime, together we can help beat the hunger crisis that has countries like Malawi and Niger in its grip.

Please don’t delay and make a donation today. Thank you.   

Our taxes are not meeting our basic needs and rights

Wanjiru Kanyiha is a Kenyan tax activist from Oxfam partner Inuka [Rise Up] Kenya Ni Sisi. Wanjiru is visiting Ireland to share her first-hand experience of how rising inequality and tax avoidance is harming communities in Africa. 

As Wanjiru says: "It is perverse to witness high-rise apartments and superhighways… while people in many parts of the country live without the dignity of a proper toilet.”

Come and meet Wanjiru at our free public events later this month in Belfast  and Dublin. 

Photo: Wanjiru Kanyiha is in Ireland to raise awareness about the impact of inequality on people like Barbara from Zambia, pictured above. Each day, Barbara faces a stark choice – going hungry or facing crocodiles. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/OxfamI live in Nairobi, Kenya. 

The story from Kenya 

I live in Nairobi, Kenya. A beautiful city. A city of many contradictions. A city of the haves and have nots. A drive around Nairobi demonstrates just that – from the leafy and upscale neighbourhoods of Karen, Lavington, Muthaiga and Gigiri, which houses the UN headquarters, to the sprawling slums of Kibera, Mukuru, Mathare, Kawangware and Kangemi, just to mention a few, where the majority of the Nairobians live. 

Nairobi can be deceptive – so much inequality can lie in such a small area. For example, take Kawangware, a slum which sits juxtaposed in sharp contrast to the paved and well-lit streets of her neighbour Lavington, a suburb located towards the North West part of Nairobi’s Central Business District. 

In Lavington, water is scarce and sanitation extremely poor. It is densely populated and the residents have little or no access to essential public services such as hospitals and schools. 

Then there’s Kibera – the largest slum in Africa. A badge Nairobi has to wear alongside that of being East Africa’s fastest growing economy. Contradictions.

Inequality is stark in Kenya. According to UN statistics, 46% of Kenya’s population lives below the poverty line. The number of people living in poverty is increasing as the cost of living rises. Children, youth and women have it particularly hard. The Kenya Youth Survey Report indicates that 80% of the Kenya population are young people. The median age is estimated at 19 years old, and about 80 percent of Kenya’s population is below the age of 35. 

The survey revealed that unemployment among young people aged between 18 and 20 was a staggering 80%. With little work to go around, both in the formal and informal labour markets, young people today in Kenya find it hard to feed themselves and access basic services. This will continue the cycle of poverty and inequality if we don’t do something about it.

Rise up and mobilise 

I work with Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi! Limited, one of Oxfam’s partners in Kenya. Inuka means ‘Rise Up’ in Kiswahili. Our job is to mobilise Kenyans, particularly young people, and get them active about tax and other social issues that affect them. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting topic but when you start thinking about it, having a fair tax system is crucial to fighting inequality. 

We engage on the ground, within communities and via online social media platforms. We form and host both online and offline conversations [#MaskaniConversations] that raise awareness on social and tax justice issues and get the communities to mobilise amongst themselves and seek solutions to the various problems that face them.

On a fundamental level, the average Kenyan pays numerous taxes. There is income tax, VAT, excise duty, among other taxes. But after all these taxes, are we getting access to quality, basic essential services? The answers is no – and for as long as I can remember this has been the case for many ordinary citizens in Kenya.

For example, Kenyan doctors have been on strike for two months over pay, benefits, working conditions and other terms for almost two months. Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya’s largest public referral hospital, and many other county government hospitals have been paralysed by the strike. They have had to turn away patients as there are no doctors to offer services. The stalemate between the doctors and government continues and the Kenyan people are left to their own devices. 

This is just one way in which we can see that our taxes are not meeting our basic needs and rights. They aren’t going to the services that will help close the gap between the rich and the rest. The Kenyan government needs to demonstrate that it cares about the doctors because this shows that they care about the citizens, through investing our taxes in our public services, equipping public hospitals and providing better terms for doctors and staff that work in these hospitals. 

Our project with Oxfam in Kenya not only focuses on raising awareness among Kenyans of their duty to pay tax, but also their rights to demand that these taxes go into financing essential services that benefit them, that help them lead a better and more dignified life. 

The middle class in Kenya ends up paying for the services that the government isn’t delivering. Kenya’s middle income earners have to plunge deeper into their pockets for private healthcare, education, security, water and almost every other social amenity one can think of. They are lucky because they have the means to find private solutions for public problems. But they are effectively paying twice. They pay their taxes and then have to pay for private services that the government fails to deliver. 

However, the crucial question is what about those at the bottom who can’t afford to pay for these private services? They are the ones who suffer the most. They are paying taxes but they don’t get the services they need and they are pushed further into poverty.

Meanwhile, the rich corporations and individuals are not paying enough in taxes. This deprives the governments of tax revenues which could be pumped into our national budget. But the big multinational corporations are given incentives and tax breaks and other incentives while the local entrepreneur doesn’t get those incentives. 

According to a report by Tax Justice Africa, tax incentives to big corporations cost the Kenyan coffers 100 billion Kenyan shillings a year. That could cover the 2016 budget for primary and secondary education in Kenya twice over. That’s not fair. What’s worse is that those who don’t pay enough are often protected by those in government who make the decisions.

Dignity before development

At Inuka, our mantra is dignity before development. It is perverse to witness high-rise apartments, superhighways and multi-billion infrastructural developments going on, while people in many parts of the country live without the dignity of a proper toilet. This isn’t only about tax justice and inequality; it’s about our lives – the lives and dignity of the Kenyan people. It’s about holding our duty bearers to account to uphold the rights that are in our constitution. 

By highlighting some of these issues through our social media platforms, we are able to paint the real picture of what it means for the ordinary citizen not to have access to these services, while at the same time lobbying to the relevant stakeholders to do something about it.

It is this that makes me do what I do and dedicate my time to this cause. It is saddening that Kenya has been independent for over fifty years but we are far from liberating ourselves. We aren’t able to speak up and speak out when we see injustices. Some places, like Turkana in the northern part of Kenya and one of the counties where we are implementing the tax justice programme, still don’t have access to water after more than half a century of independence. 

We need to rise up as one people and one voice but this is hard when there are so many inequalities and divisions. We need to make sure our leaders do right by us, to make sure these taxes are paid and pumped into the services Kenyans so badly need.

I am always trying to mobilise my friends. To do this I try and break it down – what does this mean for you? Just because you have food in your belly, it doesn’t mean that your neighbour does, it doesn’t mean that they have access to the services that you are able to enjoy. It’s my job as a campaigner and as a citizen to offer solutions to those problems – or at the very least direct them to a space where the people can seek adequate resolution. The tax justice programme does just that. Fixing the skewed tax system is a concrete way we help to solve economic inequality.

If our freedom fighters or Wangari Maathai, a famous Kenyan environmentalist, gave up or declared the fight hopeless, Kenya wouldn’t be where it is today. Wangari was often beaten and brutalised by the government but she never stopped fighting. We might not win this war today but that does not mean we stop fighting. My little contribution is talking about these issues. Whether the government of the day listens or not, the important thing is not to be silenced. Keep talking, doing, mobilising, pushing.

Then we will know we are on the right side of history.

Wanjiru Kanyiha 

Wanjiru will be speaking at our free public events in the MAC in Belfast on 27th February and in the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) in Dublin on 28th February. Find out more and come and hear her in person..

This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of Oxfam and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Find out more and take our tax action: https://www.oxfamireland.org/tax 

 
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