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Oxfam Ireland wins big at charity shop awards

Oxfam Ireland took home the big prize of the night at the 2020 Irish Charity Shop Association Awards. Reserved for shop managers who show exceptional leadership and commitment to their charity, shop, donors, customers, staff and volunteers, the Shop Manager of the Year Award was presented to Bridget Walsh from Oxfam Navan.

District Retail Manager Mark Sweeney said: "Bridget is one of the best examples of what a charity shop manager is - she works for the charity and for her volunteers. In the two years I have worked with Bridget, I have learned that Bridget is not just a shop manager to her volunteers - she is family, she is a friend, she is a support. The volunteers in our Navan shop are not just there because it's Oxfam, or indeed because it's a charity, they're there because of Bridget."

This accomplishment was even sweeter for Bridget as she celebrates her 20th year of working at Oxfam Ireland! Congratulations, Bridget!

charity shop manager of the year award winner and friends
Left to Right: Volunteer Ann Bird, Bridget, DRM and ICSA Chair Mark Sweeney and Volunteer Elizabeth Ward.

But Bridget wasn't the only one celebrating at the event!

Eli Garcia-Badia, Shop Manager at Oxfam Dundrum, was named runner-up in the Shop Manager of the Year Award's category. Congratulations, Eli!

charity shop manager of the year runner up
Left to Right: DRM and ICSA Chair Mark Sweeney, Dundrum Manager Eli Garcia-Badia and DRM Stephanie Coady.

And Oxfam Books on Dublin's Parliament St. was pipped at the post for Shop Team of the Year. Congratulations team!

charity shop team of the year award
Oxfam Parliament St. Team with DRM and ICSA Chair Mark Sweeney.

We know our volunteers are absolutely amazing, but it's wonderful to see them get the recognition they deserve.

Please help us also congratulate Ali Mubashair from our Oxfam Cork shop and Jacinta Maxwell from Oxfam Dun Laoghaire for being named runners-up in the Volunteer of the Year category! Massive congratulations!

volunteer of the year runner up
Left to Right: Martin Kenny's widow Patricia Kenny, Stephanie Coady (accepting for Jacinta Maxwell) and last year's winner Mary Bolger.
volunteer of the year runner up
Left to Right: Martin Kenny's widow Patricia Kenny, Volunteer Ali Mubashair and last year's winner Mary Bolger.

And that's a wrap! Every cent spent in any one of our shops helps to support our vital work around the world. Thank you so much to our winner and finalists for their spectacular dedication and great work!

Find your local shop now and come say hi!

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International Women’s Day: How Oxfam is helping to redress the political gender imbalance in Malawi

March 8th is International Women's Day – and at Oxfam, we believe that gender equality means more than giving women and girls the same opportunities to learn and earn as men. It also means ensuring that more women are in leadership roles and encouraging more women to become politicians.

In 2018, we launched the 50:50 Elect Her campaign in Malawi to increase the number of women going into politics. We profiled female MPs in the media to inspire more women to get involved in political life and we visited their constituencies to bring our campaign messages to their communities.

Oxfam’s Lingalireni Mihowa (left) presents bikes to gender activists. Photo: Oxfam in Malawi

We provided volunteers with information on gender laws, kitted them out with bags and clothes branded with our messaging, and gave them bicycles so they could spread the word. All of this led to the first-ever Malawi Women’s Manifesto, media campaigns that reached one million people and community awareness campaigns involving 20,000 participants.

More women stood for positions than ever before, with 310 women contesting Malawi’s 2019 election, up from 261 in 2014. More than three-quarters of constituencies had a female candidate for parliament.

The visibility provided by the Elect Her campaign improved women’s chances of being elected and delivered big gains – last year, 23 percent of MPs elected in Malawi were women, up from 16.5 percent in the 2014 election. Malawi’s parliament elected its first woman speaker, while 25 percent of ministerial portfolios are now in the hands of women – up from 20 percent.

Honourable Shanil Dzimbiri with Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken and Oxfam Ireland Board member Dr Mary Murphy dance during the Elect Her community campaign to increase the political representation of women in Malawi. Photo: Oxfam in Malawi

Meanwhile, in the local elections, 669 women stood as councillors in 2019, compared to 419 in 2014. Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city, elected its first female mayor, and 67 women were elected out of a total 456 councillors. Out of 36 councils, six women were picked to be council chairs and 10 as vice chairs.

Such enormous institutional changes reflect real impact and progress towards achieving gender equality.

Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go.

While more women in politics is an important achievement, to fully succeed it must be accompanied by policies that deliver real behavioural change in those same institutions and in wider society.

But the successes of 50:50 Elect Her gives much cause for optimism that, with your support and those of our partners, we can beat poverty and injustice for good.

So, this International Women's Day let’s take a moment to celebrate the strides we have made together in the fight for equality.

Read our submission to the Citizens’ Assembly here

Despite the progress, the campaign for equality has a long way to go

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration in which states affirmed women’s rights as human rights, while International Women’s Day 2020 strives for gender equality in politics, business and across all other areas of society. Although women have come a long way since the suffragette movement of the 1900s, the campaign for equality still has a long way to go.

In Ireland, women overwhelmingly occupy less influential positions than their male counterparts, who remain the dominant decision-makers. Women occupy just 22 percent of seats in the current Dáil, while only about 13 percent of the board members of publicly listed companies in Ireland are women. Additionally, women in the workforce are less likely to have pensions and represent the majority of part-time workers in Ireland. Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, female political representation is higher, with women making up 33 per cent of the Assembly, while a staggering 82 percent of people in part-time employment are women.

In academia, women are consistently underrepresented. Since the first university was established in Ireland almost 450 years ago, we have never had a female president. Elsewhere, the European Commission has warned that the underrepresentation and access for women is threatening the goals of achieving excellence in science. On the global scale, the World Economic Forum calculated that at the current rate of progress, it will take nearly 170 years for women and men to be employed at the same rates, paid the same for equal work, and have the same levels of seniority.

At Oxfam, we are not willing to wait 170 years. Gender quotas, particularly electoral quotas, are proven to be effective in fast-tracking women’s representation and are gaining international support, illustrated by our 50:50 Elect Her campaign to encourage more Malawian women to run for parliament. In the interests of the greater good, quotas ensure power sharing where it would not otherwise occur.

In line with International Women’s Day, we believe that gender equality is essential for economies and societies to thrive and can create a healthier, wealthier and more harmonious world. After all, equality is not a women’s issue – it’s a global issue.

Read our submission to the Citizens’ Assembly here

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Even as we celebrate International Women’s Day, our role in society remains undervalued

The modern-day concept of International Women’s Day – a day of activism and equality – was born out of the suffragette movement in the US. This movement transcended class, geography and time with International Women’s Day now celebrated across the world.

A battle cry of the original movement was “Give us bread, but give us roses” – an emotive call to action which spoke to the dual desires of women at the time. They wanted a living wage and fair treatment in work – things to sustain them, like bread. But they also wanted dignity in the work they did and for their contributions to be valued – the things that made life beautiful, like roses.

While women have made many strides in the 110 years since this call to action, there are still millions of women worldwide who work in care and whose contributions are chronically underappreciated and undervalued. Oxfam’s recent Time to Care report illustrated this systemic undervaluing of care work.

On a global scale, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. This equates to 42 percent of women who are not engaged in paid employment because of their caregiving responsibilities, compared to just six percent of men. Across the Middle East and North Africa, these statistics are starker, with 73 percent of women unable to engage in paid employment due to unpaid care work obligations.

These numbers reveal a huge proportion of women who are not engaged in the traditional labour market, and whose societal contributions are therefore underappreciated. To put these numbers into perspective, care work done by women and girls is worth three times more than the global tech industry and nine times more than the pharmaceutical industry.

The issue of undervalued and underpaid care is not only global, but local. In Ireland, care work is still highly gendered, with the most recent census highlighting that 98 percent of those responsible for looking after the home or family were women. Irish women’s unpaid care work contributes at least €24 billion to the economy every year.

In Northern Ireland, carers’ support is valued at £4.6 billion a year – but this comes at high personal cost. In addition to the financial cost of their caring role, carers often face loneliness and social isolation, as well as increased health problems of their own.

Carers NI recently estimated that 1 in 5 people in Northern Ireland provide care for a family member or friend, over 58,000 more than the 2011 Census records. Over half of all carers in Northern Ireland are women.

Despite the tireless contribution of women, care is consistently treated as non-work – and spending on care is seen as a cost, not an investment.

Read our submission to the Citizens’ Assembly here

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International Women’s Day: Celebrating 110 years of female empowerment

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. Celebrated each year on 8 March, it was born out of the suffragette movement in the US in 1909 during which women were campaigning for shorter hours, better pay and the right to vote.

The movement was picked up in Europe and the first International Women’s Day was celebrated across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1910. The power of women banding together to create lasting change was cemented on 8 March 1917, when Russian women launched a strike which ended in the forced abdication of Czar Nicholas II and led to the establishment of a new government which granted women voting rights.

In 1918, women in Ireland were given the right to vote. Not every woman was eligible, however – it only applied to women over 30, those with property or a university education. It would take another four years for the full parliamentary franchise to be granted to women under the provision of the State’s new constitution. Women in Britain would have to wait until 1928, while French women were only granted the right to vote in 1945. International Women’s Day was recognised by the United Nations and proclaimed as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace in December of 1977.

I raise up my voice - not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard..... We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

The aspirations of International Women’s Day mirror the fundamental goals of our international programme work around the Right to Be Heard and Advancing Women’s Rights. In Rwanda, for example, we provide training to poor female farmer on their rights, which improves their economic stability and overall community resilience to any potential shocks. In Malawi, our 50:50 Elect Her campaign encourages more women to get involved in what has traditionally been a male-dominated political arena. Having more women in parliament not only brings new voices and perspectives to politics, it gives women across the country an opportunity to air their views, concerns and hopes at a national level.

Closer to home, we are also advocating for women who carry out most of the underpaid and unpaid care work. Women’s influence and decision-making in Ireland is deeply constrained, with under representation at the highest political and business levels leading to the continuation of gender inequality.

Read our submission to the Citizens’ Assembly here

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