Showing impact

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Entertain, educate, organise: how radio supports development

To mark World Radio Day on Saturday 13th February, Oxfam celebrates how radio impacts millions of people every day, and remains an important tool for development and a lifeline in times of emergency. 
 
Oxfam uses radio as a vital medium in its overseas programme work tackling poverty and assisting vulnerable people during humanitarian crisis.
 
Radio dramas and entertainment/education campaigns offer the potential to deliver critical information to those who need it most across vast geographic distances via compelling, entertaining programming. 
 
In Tanzania, for example, Oxfam is supporting a community station, Radio Lolondo FM, by helping to provide equipment, solar powered energy supplies and salaries, as it works to raise awareness about development work in Tanzania. The station educates people about Oxfam’s livelihood projects which help people grow more crops and set up their own co-ops, among other things, as well our campaign against violence on women and girls in Tanzania.
 
One of its broadcasters, Janet Mbunito explains radio’s benefits and its immediacy as a communications tool for essential information: “Newspapers are slow getting here and few can read them. With radio, we can bring the news of Arusha and of Tanzania quickly and the key is to broadcast local issues in the local language.
 
 
Janet Mbunito during a broadcast by Radio Lolondo FM, an Oxfam-supported station in Tanzania. Photo: Geoff Sayer/Oxfam
 
“We play music, take phone calls, and bring people in from the villages to talk. The station is here to entertain, to educate and to support development...”
 
Similarly, Oxfam and its partners in Haiti have developed a radio drama to change and influence knowledge, attitudes and behaviours amongst local communities, tackling issues such as nutrition, gender-based violence, destruction of natural resources, cholera, and safe hygiene practices. 
 
And in Liberia in 2015, Oxfam helped to develop radio jingles and a drama about the signs and symptoms of Ebola, which were broadcast via radio for four days nationwide. In Sierra Leone, the Radio Bintumani station in Koinadugu district also played jingles to highlight the signs and symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent it. Steven Bockarie Mansaray, the station manager, says that the promotion of health messages was key to keeping Ebola out of the district for so long.
 
 
Steven Bockarie Mansaray is the manager of Radio Bintumani in Sierra Leone. The district station played jingles to highlight the signs and symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent it. 
Credit: Holly Taylor/Oxfam
 
Nepal is another powerful example of the positive role that radio can play in Oxfam’s humanitarian work.
 
Following the two devastating earthquakes that hit the region in April and May 2015, Oxfam quickly responded, ensuring safe and equal access to water and sanitation facilities, and provision of basic needs such as food, cash and hygiene materials. 
 
However, as our community mobilisation teams in Nepal hit the ground to ask communities what they needed and to better understand the challenges they faced, it soon became apparent that in addition to basic essentials there was more we could do to help connect communities with information.
 
As Simone Carter, Oxfam Community Mobiliser and Public Health Promoter, says: “Families had lost access to information; their radios and TVs had been destroyed or buried in the earthquake, and travelling to access this information was impossible at the time.
 
“People were also confused about how to access the much-needed aid from the numerous organisations and relief agencies. This information gap resulted in rumours and questions about everything from selection criteria for reconstruction grants, to myths regarding the next earthquake.
 
 
Above: Radio Sindhu DJs Gurash Gureng (22), Deepak Khatri (23), and Asmi Tamang (21) in Nepal. After the earthquake made their station building unsafe they relocated to this open bike shed and set up their equipment for broadcast. The team received regular missing persons calls and helped to reunite people with their families. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam A Nepalese woman with one of the radios distributed by Oxfam, following the devastating earthquakes in 2015. Credit: Oxfam
 
“An organisation focused on improving access to information in affected communities, Internews, was in Nepal running a programme called OpenMic Rumour Tracking, which they had first trialled in Liberia with Ebola. 
 
“They collected rumours from communities and then published a weekly report in English and Nepali comparing these common rumours to facts, as well as providing contact details for people who could provide further information. 
 
“Oxfam teams did not have a channel to disseminate the information, so we decided to partner with a local community station, Radio Sindhu, to produce a programme, including a section on myth de-bunking.”
 
The earthquake had made Radio Sindhu’s building unsafe to operate in, and soon the station was receiving calls from people across the area saying they could not hear its shows.
 
Despite difficulties in getting supplies to the region, the station was given a new aerial, they relocated to an open bike shed, got hold of fuel for the generator and set up their equipment for broadcast. Radio Sindhu was broadcasting around the clock within two days of the earthquake. The team received regular missing persons calls and helped to reunite people with their families. 
 
Simone Carter explains: “Internews provided capacity building to help the station produce the show with Oxfam, and our community mobilisers worked with communities to gather the content. 
 
“By working through local radio we have been able to provide communities with the information they want and need, in a way that they find accessible, and which is part of their daily life. The show has been so successful that other local stations have been airing it as well.
 
“Topics have included health, gender, humanitarian assistance and government programming. Other topics addressed by the show have included preparing for winter, how to tell if your child has trauma, and success stories of communities recovery and rebuilding.
 
“By also inviting other organisations including the Red Cross and government agencies to be on the show, we encouraged communities to listen to just one station, with one show that aims to address their key concerns. The show has been running since June 2015 and although there are some national radio equivalents it is the only local radio show with community dialogue, focused on serving the needs of the community post-earthquake.
 
“Oxfam distributed over 1,000 radios to women's groups and youth groups to encourage members to listen. The show is replayed at four different times and on two different stations, allowing these groups different opportunities to sit together and listen. Our community mobilisers and the female community health volunteers also carry recorded versions of the show to play during community visits. This means that when our teams arrive in communities and they bring up key issues, they can play the episode on that topic or take note of the issue and organise an upcoming episode to address it.
 
“We are now trying to do live segments from communities and to have story collection done by the radio station, encouraging the station to take more ownership of the programme, so that it will be sustainable in the long-term.
 
“Not only do the radio shows provide key information to communities, they also serve as a constructive forum for the community to discuss and share information and experiences among themselves. We have hosted children's groups, promoted community events and showcased local talent. 
 
“The show has done more than inform, it has helped to grow and strengthen community bonds, bringing people together in the process of recovery and reconstruction after the earthquakes.”
 
You can help support Oxfam projects worldwide by making a donation.
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A year in pictures: the impact you helped make happen in 2015

It’s been a busy year! 2015 saw considerable global challenges – such as the Nepal earthquake, rising global inequality, conflict in South Sudan and Syria and the refugee crisis, among others.

It was also a year of momentous achievements – world leaders committing to 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed to end extreme poverty by 2030, and an historic if imperfect global climate deal at the COP climate talks in Paris.

Thanks to the inspirational support of our donors, campaigners, supporters, volunteers and staff, Oxfam’s programmes during the past 12 months helped a record 25 million lives around the globe, through our emergency responses, development projects and campaigning.

So to review the year, we wanted to share just a small selection of photos which illustrate how your support helped Oxfam make an incredible difference during 2015.

Vanuata was left devastated by Cyclone Pam in March 2015. Pictured here is Marie-Lea with a voucher from Oxfam. We have been assisting families affected by Cyclone Pam by distributing vouchers to be exchanged for farming items, building materials, and other general goods. The aim is to help them rebuild their livelihoods and grow food. Photo: Adrian Lloyd/Oxfam

A man in Kathmandu, Nepal washes his face at an Oxfam tap stand in the Tundikhel camp for people displaced by the earthquake in April 2015. We have delivered essential aid – including emergency shelters, hygiene kits, clean water and sanitation facilities – to more than 445,000 people affected by the quake. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

All summer, we brought our Even it Up campaign around Ireland, north and south, and 25,000 people backed our call for action on inequality. We highlighted that just 80 people – few enough to fit on our double decker bus – have the same wealth as half the world’s population and urged world leaders, including the Irish and UK governments, to tackle the root causes of inequality. Photo: Press Eye

August 2015: Female Food Heroes, the Oxfam-supported initiative in Tanzania, continues to empower female farmers through its accompanying reality TV show. The programme highlights the vital role played by women in lifting communities out of poverty, as participants compete in farming tasks and learning about leadership, women's rights and finance management. The show attracts 21 million viewers – approximately half the population of Tanzania. Pictured is participant Edna Kiogwe, tackling a task during filming. Photo: Coco McCabe/Oxfam

Children participate in a lesson about hygiene at an Oxfam community centre in Zaatari camp, Jordan, in September 2015. By providing drinking water, toilets and showers, community centres, hygiene promotion and waste collection, we support some 25,000 of Zaatari’s 80,000 residents displaced by the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Oxfam has so far reached more than 1.6 million people in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon with life-saving clean water and sanitation. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

The public showed their compassion for the plight of people fleeing conflict and poverty and urged governments to make ‘Refugees Welcome’ – here standing up and being counted on Sandymount Strand, Dublin, in September at an event organised by a coalition of Irish NGOs. The Irish and UK Governments committed to opening their borders to more vulnerable refugees. We are supporting asylum seekers who have arrived in Serbia and Greece, as well as in Italy. Photo: Steve Kingston

Pictured in November 2015 is Zewudie Dagnew with her son Ashenafi Aragaw in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where Oxfam’s R4 Rural Resilience Initiative is helping farmers increase their resilience to challenges like drought. Farmers there speak of how weather patterns have changed over time and how the rains that feed their crops are coming later than they used to and departing sooner. Photo: Coco McCabe/Oxfam

Megacone perform on the Oxjam stage at Electric Picnic 2015. As well as organising events and campaigning at summer festivals, Oxfam Ireland called on music fans across the island to put on their own pop-up events as part of the Oxjam Gigmaker campaign. Photo: Olga Kuzmenko.

Oxfam aid worker Amy Christian talks to refugees from Afghanistan as they wait outside a registration centre for migrants and refugees in Preševo, southern Serbia in October 2015. We are working in Serbia to help some of the thousands fleeing to safety, providing clean water, toilets and showers. In Greece we are providing hot meals and winter kits, while in Italy support includes housing, food, psychological support, legal assistance and language classes. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam.

“Clean water – thank you Oxfam!” Brian collects water from an Oxfam water tap in Lologo, Juba, South Sudan. Since conflict broke out in December 2013, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives and 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes. We are currently supporting 690,000 people with humanitarian assistance, including clean water, hygiene facilities, food, fuel and income support. Photo: Fred Perraut/Oxfam

We are one of 17 Oxfams working for change in more than 90 countries – these pictures represent just a few of our projects in Tanzania, Nepal, Jordan, South Sudan, Vanuatu and Ethiopia.

None of the work we do could happen without your support. You helped save lives and rebuild livelihoods after natural disaster struck Nepal. You showed generosity and compassion to those affected by the fighting in Syria. You gave a voice to those affected by the migrant crisis and forced our governments to strengthen their responses. You pushed businesses and institutions to reform practices that reinforce inequality.

You shopped with us in our 49 shops throughout Ireland. You danced with us at Oxjam 2015. You hosted your own events to raise awareness and funds. You donated to our fundraising efforts, including our Oxfam Unwrapped campaign. You supported our Even it Up campaign, to tackle the root causes of inequality.

You are making a difference – thank you! We look forward to your continued support in 2016 so that we can secure further progress towards our vision of a just world without poverty.

On behalf of Oxfam, Happy New Year!

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The spirit of Vanuatu

Vanuatu-Efate-Pang Pang Village-Mark, Oxfam staff, hands voucher to cyclone survivor. Photo: Groovy Banana/OxfamAUS

About three months ago, on the morning of 14 March 2015, I opened the door of my home in Port Vila slowly, not sure what I would see outside after Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam had screeched its way across our beautiful Vanuatu. At the time I thought, and wrote, that our world would be quite different out there. And it was. My first impression was of the physical devastation. My second (just a few minutes later) was that somehow we now had a cat in our garden! The phrase “raining cats and dogs” came to mind. We named it “Cat Five” and took care of it, but that’s another story for another day.

None of us in Vanuatu could imagine what a Category 5 cyclone would do to Vanuatu. Our Oxfam team tried to. We had to prepare and work with our partner organisations to prepare for something, the impact of which we were really not sure of as the country had little experience of a cyclone of this magnitude. None of us were too sure about how we and the whole of Vanuatu would respond to whatever Pam did to our country and people.

 

Only a few minutes out of my home’s door, I had a good sense of both. Large parts of Vanuatu had been devastated. It was, quite simply, bad. Pam had been cruel to our country in many ways. She had ripped large pieces of it to shreds leaving it looking naked and fragile; and leaving many of us feeling that way too. Pam had killed mercifully few for the magnitude of her force. But the people of Vanuatu were already out there, taking control of their own fate, making sure that Pam’s “control” was not allowed to settle over us or hold us back for a moment longer than it could.

In the early days after Pam, we only had ourselves to rely on. The outside world was cut away; and most of the many beautiful islands that make up Vanuatu were isolated from each other too. This didn’t stop families, friends, communities, organisations, government departments and our amazing team of Oxfamers just getting down to work and starting to make things better in whatever way possible. It was amazing to watch and an incredible privilege to be part of. Like the rest of Vanuatu, our Oxfam team emerged safely, a little dazed and tired, but ready to get on with whatever needed to be done.

Much has been said of the amazing Vanuatu response across all forms of media and in early pieces of research. Resilience was what people called it as soon as they could give it a name. That label, for me, quickly became too commonly used — taking away the “something special” that I felt and saw happening in Vanuatu. But what else could it have been? I searched my (very tired) brain for other ways to describe it, to give it a title which had a deeper sense of specialness for me. No luck. And then I looked at synonyms for resilience and there hidden among terms such as elasticity, buoyancy, hardiness and toughness was a word that fitted better: spirit. A simple term, but one which captured the essence of what I was seeing and feeling among our Oxfam team and the general population — a spirit that was strong, positive, realistic, practical under stress and located somewhere deep in the fabric of the people of Vanuatu, deep in their culture and traditions, deep in their hearts and minds.

Three months on and this spirit has done, and keeps doing, amazing things. And it is everywhere. Thanks to the amazing support of people across the world, we were able to launch a solid response to Cyclone Pam. Our team has grown, as has our work at Oxfam. While the initial “surge” needed us to bring in specialist skills from across the world, we have also been able to tap into the amazing spirit and talent of the people of Vanuatu.

I have worked with and watched young Ni-Vanuatu people new to Oxfam absorb the Oxfam values — that are so central to what we do — with ease and enthusiasm. Likewise, I am experiencing Oxfam learn and grow from the spirit of these young people — a deeply valuable and rewarding exchange and a privilege; an unanticipated gift from Pam.

Alice at Vanuatu-Efate-Matarisu village. Evelyn signs list to get emergency voucher. Philemon, community leader. Sandi and three sons, Wilkins, William and Philip n front of their house damaged by cycline Pam. Photos: Groovy Banana/OxfamAUS
 

We have done much. Our Oxfam teams provided life-saving emergency water to communities directly after Pam struck. We have built new longer-term relationships in our recovery work, some with remote communities on small islands. On Epi Island, Oxfam teams were the first to arrive in some communities and provided much needed emergency supplies, and, importantly, a sense that the world out there cared for them. We have continued our work there and on Efate Island. Our expert skills in technical water system restoration have done amazing things, as has our pioneering work in emergency food security, livelihoods and public health and hygiene education. Our partners too have worked hard with us to engage in all of this work. Always making sure that gender, protection of vulnerable community members and sound monitoring, evaluation, learning and accountability mechanisms are core to whatever we do. Together with this, the incredible work that has gone into our coordination role of the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team has been recognised as significant in the response to Cyclone Pam.

Today I look out over Port Vila, from our offices on the hill above the bay, and it is clear that the land is responding to the spirit — healing itself and sharing this with the rest of the world. The green is returning, plants are growing, flowers are dotting the place with tentative colour, markets are reopening, homes are being rebuilt, smiles are getting bigger and children are at school again. Gone are the constant sounds of chain saws cutting away at the trees that fell across our roads and buildings. Gone too are the clouds and smells of heavy smoke that hung across the city when people could only dispose of the debris by burning it. The warped and crushed metal of roofs have been cleared, signs are back up and shattered windows replaced. The harbor is no longer silent, and likewise the airport — we hear the horns of the boats and ships, see their twinkling lights again at night, and hear the flights come in and out of the airport almost as they used to. Somehow, these have become good sounds. Businesses are rebuilding and customers and tourists are returning to enjoy our special place on the planet. Lessons are being learnt and shared, government is working to respond in ways they consider best, and donors, local not-for-profit agencies and international agencies such as Oxfam are doing whatever they can to support. It is an amazing journey.

Of course, all of this will be documented in copious research and evaluation reports. Pages of paper. Some of the work will be critiqued and some applauded depending on the time and audience. This is all normal in the cycle of events after a cyclone of this magnitude. But through these formal processes we should never lose sight of that special spirit, the simple (but, at the same time complex and often elusive) “something special” that has carried us to the point we are at, and will carry Vanuatu beyond this point too.

As the anniversaries of Cyclone Pam come and go we need to continue to embrace the spirit we have experienced; the sprit that has always and will always be at the core of what makes Vanuatu and her people get up, dust themselves off and get on with life in such amazing ways. I said in the early days that there were lessons for the world in this — there have been and will be. Watch this space!

Colin Collett van Rooyen is Oxfam Vanuatu's Country Director. 

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‘A yes vote in Ireland will give us hope for LGBT rights in Zimbabwe’

Oxfam Ireland is supporting a ‘Yes’ vote in Republic of Ireland’s marriage referendum on May 22nd because we believe that equality and human rights belong to us all, regardless of sexual orientation. These rights include the right to marry the person you love. We work with civil society organisations and citizen activists to build a social movement for justice and equality on a broad range of issues, including gay rights.

Brian Malone, Oxfam Ireland’s Digital Coordinator, recently visited Zimbabwe and met with an Oxfam supported, feminist collective of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women called Voice of the Voiceless (VOVO). 

The LGBT community in Zimbabwe are denounced by their aggressively homophobic government. Homosexuality is a crime under Zimbabwean law with a one-year prison sentence for sexual relations between men. Hate speech, beatings, arbitrary arrests and even ‘corrective’ rape are rife.

Supported by Oxfam, VOVO provides a safe space for LBT women to connect, share stories and raise the visibility of women’s issues within the broader LGBT community. Sian Masuko, Oxfam Women’s Rights Programme Manager in Zimbabwe, explains that, for many of them, VOVO meetings are the only time these women feel safe enough to be who they really are.

Some are private, invite only gatherings where members feel safe to share their stories openly. Other events are more public like last year’s courageous feminist ‘transect’ walk around Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, highlighting the areas where LBT women don’t feel safe.

“We went to the Central Police Station and a trans woman spoke because she had been arrested. She spoke about how difficult it is to be free and to be who you are and how you are constantly attacked on the basis of your identity. That was a bit of a risky one so we had to stand at a slight distance.”

Carol and Sku, bravely agree to share their experiences of being gay in Zimbabwe. Sku is wearing a purple t-shirt with, ‘Women Who Are Not Afraid to Use the F-word – Feminism’, written on it. Carol makes a joke about not wanting to be on camera – not for personal, security reasons but because she thinks she “looks like a pirate” today. 

“I think Zimbabwe would have a lot of ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’,” Carol says. “You’re always in character. It takes a toll on the mind. Sometimes it’s just making it through the day and saying ok I didn’t get arrested. I got home after sunset and no-one mugged me. No one spiked my drink at the bar. No one sent me threatening messages.”

In the middle of all this oppression, Sian tells me there’s also a lot of laughter and celebration.

“I think for VOVO this year there was a shift to say, ‘You know what? We’re actually not going to apologise for who we are anymore. We’re going to start to celebrate’. Because what we see as a good, positive, democratic society is a celebration of diversity and not a society where you have to apologise for who you are, and are always having to cut corners or trying to pretend.” 

Above: VOVO members dance in the streets of Bulawayo, t-shirts emblazoned with the message: 'Women who are not afraid to use the F-word - FEMINISM'. Photos: Sian Masuko/Oxfam.

Irish Marriage Equality Referendum

I told Carol and Sku about the gay rights movement in Ireland and we watched Panti's Noble Call. Then I told them how, on May 22nd, voters in the Republic of Ireland will take part in a national referendum on legalising same-sex marriage, i.e. allowing gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage. As it currently stands, lesbian and gay couples cannot get married and do not have equal status under the Irish Constitution.

I was curious to know how they feel when they see LGBT communities in other countries taking strides towards equality – left behind or hopeful?

For Sku, it’s the latter. “It shows us that, yeah, you can fight for something and something can actually come out of it,” she explains. “So it’s a good thing, it’s showing us that as time goes on maybe things can change here in Zim too.”

“It’s very inspiring that you’re actually at that stage in Ireland,” Carol adds. “I’m actually looking forward to hearing how that I goes. If I were Irish I would definitely say yes!... I hope the desired outcome becomes the actual outcome.”

A Yes vote in the referendum won’t just be a leap forward for human rights in Ireland. It will send a message of hope to members of the LGBT community all over the world that inequality can be challenged, that positive change can happen.

Use your voice for equality – Vote YES on May 22nd.

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Celebrating female climate change fighters

This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate Female Climate Change Fighters. In places like Bolivia, the Philippines and Zimbabwe, small-scale female farmers show resilience and strength as they battle the effects of climate change and make their livelihoods happen despite unpredictable weather, dry spells and extreme flooding.

These women are fierce in their efforts to support their families and communities, producing crops that often fail or are destroyed because of the impact of climate change on their environments.

Rosario lives in Guayaramerin in Bolivia and is part of The Santa Rosa Community, made up of around 30 families living in the extreme north-east of the country. In recent years, the climate has changed bringing extreme and uncontrolled floods with devastating results.

Rosario says: “We talk a lot about the climate and how it is affecting us. We, as people who live in the forest, see [that] the main issue is deforestation – that is affecting us all and is impacting on the climate. Because we are all so concerned, we have implemented agro-forestry systems, which are our way of trying to preserve the forest, and ensure we are not contributing to climate change.

“In the past it was cooler during the day but now more and more there is extreme heat and the sun is burning more and more strongly. For me, it is really hard. For everyone it is a challenge to find the right way of cropping because the weather has changed so much.

“Everybody should be getting involved in this issue – especially Governments. But at the moment we don’t see enough results. This is what is worrying.”

In the Philippines, 20 year old Langging has lived in the farming community of Bagumbayan in the south island of Mindanao in the Philippines her whole life. She loved attending school, until unexpected extremes in weather meant her family’s harvest failed and her parents didn’t have enough money for her to continue her studies. Her plan was to train as a vet so she could support her community in caring for their livestock.

Despite this setback, she is using her energy to support her community in the fight against climate change. She is a Youth Leader for her local area and brings together groups of young people to talk about their experiences of the effects of climate change, bringing their concerns to the local government, and other people who have the power to make change happen.

“Climate change is a big concern for young people like me. If it’s hard to plant and grow crops now, what about the next few decades? What about when we’re trying to grow enough food to survive the longer dry spells in the future?

“As a youth leader, I’m inspired to call for other young people to act on climate change. It is important for us to dialogue with the people in power – the government officials – so they will know what the issues are.”

In Zimbabwe, rainfall is becoming increasingly erratic and it's hard for farmers like Ipaishe to predict when to plant.

Passionate and energetic, Ipaishe along with other women in her community is part of an irrigation project, trying to adapt and continue to grow crops despite the decreasing rainfall. They use their experience to campaign for climate change adaptation techniques to ensure farmers in Zimbabwe can grow enough food to feed themselves - whatever the weather.

“The way we survive here is by farming - it’s the only livelihood we have. The food we produce makes us healthy and strong, and the surplus food we grow, we can sell and get money for school fees and hospital fees.

“Over the last 10 years the climate has changed. We have had times where there was a lot of rain and all of our crops were destroyed and so we couldn’t harvest any food. Another time the rains came as normal but went very early, and the crops wilted and died due to the heat.

We must unite with others and all learn about climate change.”

Female Climate Change Fighters

Watch our new film made using stunning drone footage and powerful interviews with women climate fighters across four continents. You might want to watch this one in full-screen!

To celebrate International Women’s Day and the inspirational women in our lives, we’ve launched a special campaign on Facebook to help support women like Rosario, Langging and Ipaishe through Oxfam’s work worldwide.

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