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Budget 2021: A perfect opportunity to address gender justice

Achieving Gender Justice - our Pre-budget Submission recommendations

The coronavirus crisis has once again revealed that care work – which is often unpaid – is a “hidden engine”, one that keeps the figurative wheels of our economy and society turning. It is driven by women and girls who remain trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder because they have little or no time to earn a decent living, become active in their communities, or even have a say in how their societies are run. In Ireland and beyond, paid and unpaid care work is still highly gendered and undervalued – both financially and societally. Many care workers are still paid poverty wages.

Across the world, women and girls do more than three-quarters of unpaid care work and make up two-thirds of the paid care workforce. They carry out 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day. When valued at the minimum wage, this would represent a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.

Like the global situation, care work in Ireland – both paid and unpaid – is highly gendered and undervalued in terms of pay and recognition. Provision of care services, such as childcare and care for older people, by the State is relatively low, leaving households to provide these services themselves or to source them from the market, if they can afford it.

The crisis has also highlighted the importance of low-wage workers, deemed essential during the pandemic. As many of 82 percent of all cashiers are women. Women were also on the frontlines in hospitals and clinics, with females accounting for 76 percent of healthcare workers in the EU alone. Women are also more likely to care for the sick and elderly in their own homes. Throughout this pandemic, women have put their families and society first – but have received little in terms of economic reward or societal recognition.

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again shown us the value of women and carers to our society.

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Budget 2021: Poverty, climate and coronavirus should take centre stage

On Tuesday 13 October, the Irish government will unveil Budget 2021. We have released our pre-budget submission in the hope of ensuring that this year’s budget provides support to those who need it most, is climate centric, and addresses the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we are all familiar with the enormous challenges faced by Ireland due to the pandemic, the situation in low-income countries is much more dire. A fundamental part of ensuring that low-income countries can prevent the spread of the disease is by supporting infrastructure. This can be done by the government through corporate tax reform, official development assistance and a debt moratorium.

As it is impossible to form solutions to global poverty and inequality while corporate tax avoidance drains $100 billion in resources annually from low-income countries, Ireland needs to further reform its corporate tax avoidance and double taxation treaties. This can be done by contributing to a second generation of international tax reforms and by supporting a transformative international reform of corporate tax leading to an equitable rebalance of taxing rights between developed and developing countries.

In terms of official development assistance (ODA) during the COVID-19 crisis, it is paramount that the funding of aid is not cut. Instead, aid to combat the pandemic should be additional – not supplemented from the current aid budget. Furthermore, Ireland needs to publish a roadmap for meeting its 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) commitment on ODA with detailed year-on-year increases and continue to uphold the country’s reputation for delivering highly effective aid.

Finally, in order to ensure that low-income countries have the tools to combat COVID-19, Ireland should support an immediate, unconditional moratorium on debt interest payments for poorer countries. In Africa alone, this act would free up $44 billion this year to finance public health and fight the virus.

While is it fundamental that we support, in global terms, the furthest behind first, that must also be the case here in Ireland. Care work is the “hidden engine” that runs our economy and is predominately done by women and girls who often sacrifice autonomy, community engagement and personal income. Care work in Ireland and around the world is highly gendered and undervalued, with many in the care sector earning poverty wages. Ireland should ensure proper State-funded wages and supports for care workers, hold a referendum on Article 41.2 of the Constitution to include gender neutral language, and prioritise gender budgeting which enables the allocation of funds in a way that promotes gender equality.

Finally, COVID-19 is not the only threat to our world right now. As the virus rages on, the devastating impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having real consequences on people’s lives. In some of the world’s poorest countries, lives and livelihoods are under threat due to changes in temperatures, rainfall and intensity of natural disasters. The insecurity cause by climate change perpetuates and deepens poverty. To combat this deepening crisis, richer countries likes Ireland need to reduce carbon emissions and provide sufficient climate financing to ensure that the nations most impacted by climate breakdown have the resources to implement adaptation and mitigation measures. In many cases, the countries most impacted by climate change are the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

Against the backdrop of this virus, Budget 2021 provides the Government with an opportunity to build on the above commitments and improve the lives of people living in, or vulnerable to, poverty and crisis.

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100% animal free jackets hitting select Oxfam Ireland shops this week!

Ethical winter goodies - Oxfam Ireland’s team up with Save The Duck

Oxfam Ireland are delighted to announce the launch of a collaboration with their 4 Good Sustainable Business initiative and Save The Duck - which will see a colourful range of high-quality 100% animal free outdoor wear available in select Oxfam shops from today, 8 October.

The Save The Duck jackets in Oxfam shops are unique to the Irish market and will be retailing at 60 percent off the recommended retail price. The new range will be of particular interest to shoppers concerned with environmental and sustainability issues, planet lovers, fashion lovers and outdoorsy adventurers alike. 

Elaine White, Stock Sustainability Manager with Oxfam Ireland said: “It is great to collaborate with a company like Save The Duck who pride themselves on luxury as ‘a matter of quality of life and connection to the beauty of nature’. The company set a world record by being the first entirely animal free clothing to ascend Everest in the history of mountaineering, and now Oxfam are delighted to bring them to our customers across Ireland at a fantastic price.”

In 2019 Save The Duck become the first fashion brand in Italy to obtain B Corp certification meaning they put social and environmental impact objectives on par with economic-financial ones.

White continued: “Under our 4 Good Sustainable Business model, the collaboration was a natural fit as we both aim to protect our planet and its people, and both believe in transparent business models and the responsible management of natural resources in production processes.

“Through our network of shops across the island of Ireland, our Trading team work with retail businesses to divert textiles and other goods from landfill or incineration, transforming would-be greenhouse gas emissions into vital funds that support communities affected by the climate crisis worldwide. 

“By donating end-of-line or excess stock to our retail network, companies cut down on their waste and therefore their carbon footprint by reducing pollutants that end up in our soil, water and air.”

The Save The Duck jackets will be available in select Oxfam shops this week. To avoid disappointment, Oxfam Shop managers advise customers to get down soon to secure a unique and ethical winter bargain - that’s ‘Good 4 You, Good 4 the Planet’.

The Save the Duck range will be available in the following Oxfam shops:  

Belfast, Northern Ireland: Botanic Avenue; Castle Court; Fountain Street.  

Republic of Ireland: Cooks Street, Cork; Dun Laoghaire, Dublin; Galway; Georges Street, Dublin; Malahide, Dublin; Limerick; Rathmines, Dublin; Kilkenny 

If you are a retail business or company who wants to learn more about Oxfam Ireland’s 4 Good Sustainable Business initiative or are interested in becoming a Business Leader in Sustainability contact Elaine.white@oxfam.org.

ENDS

Contact for media queries

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes to the editor 

  • Learn more about:

Oxfam Shops

Save The Duck

  • Oxfam retail partners are part of a global movement for change, working to put the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of their corporate, social, environmental and sustainability strategies. They are helping to tackle the issues arising from the over- production and consumption of textiles, championing a fairer, more sustainable world. 
  • These partners are also helping to directly improve the lives of millions of people worldwide by supporting Oxfam’s work to combat poverty and injustice. 
  • Save The Duck take care of the environment and all its inhabitants; promoting a transparent business model that manages natural resources responsibly. 
  • In 2019 Save The Duck was voted Company of the Year 2019 by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for their 100% animal-free quilted jacket brand. 
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Almost ten years of war and now COVID. Syrians fear the worst.

Najwa (48), who lost her son to war and now raises his three children, stands in her partially damaged kitchen in Harasta, Eastern Ghouta/ Rural Damascus.

By Dania Kareh, Oxfam in Syria Media and Communications Officer

It was my first visit to the outskirts of Damascus since the country went into lockdown to contain the potential spread of the coronavirus. As our car moved closer to Harasta – a town to the northeast of the city – life seemed perfectly normal from afar. However, in the midst of a pandemic, things are often not what they seem. For millions around the world who’ve been trapped at home by COVID-19, it’s been a deeply unusual time. But when you’ve lived through over nine years of war, even the deadliest of diseases seems like just another detail. 

In March, when the first infection was reported, a curfew was imposed, borders were closed and travel was restricted between different parts of the country. Only essential shops were allowed to conduct business: shops selling medicine and food. By mid-May, however, many restrictions were lifted with no telling as to what might happen.  

As I walked through Harasta’s markets, I saw crowded food shops and street vendors spreading their goods on the pavements, forcing people to walk in the streets.  There was no evidence of anyone attempting to socially distance. It was as crowded as ever.

I met Najwa who lives in Harasta with her family of five. She lost her son in the war and now raises his three little children, relying solely on relatives’ handouts. “We survived the constant fighting, we survived a mortar that hit our building and destroyed our kitchen, we survived the lack of food and water, we survived the long months we had to spend under besiegement when many basic items were not available. At some point bread, sugar and tea were a dream to get. Don’t you think we will survive this virus?” she asked me. Her demeanour cynical. 

Livelihoods gravely affected

While all over the world there are coronavirus related job losses, it’s much, much worse for this war-torn nation and its people, who have been suffering for almost a decade. A crisis within a crisis. As a result of the lockdown, many people, who already live hand-to-mouth, have been unable to make a living. To add insult to injury, prices continue to dramatically increase, making it almost impossible for vulnerable people, who have no alternative resources, to survive the pandemic.

When the first case was announced in Syria, people rushed to stock up on food amid fears that authorities will impose strict measures, but not Najwa’s family.

We didn’t even bother to think about storing food since we barely afford our daily bread. We might not die of the virus, but we will definitely die of empty stomachs.

~ Najwa

A race against time

The curfew meant people only had a limited set of hours where they could purchase essential items. As a result, queues became a daily scene around the country, especially in front of bakeries. What was once readily available everywhere at an affordable price became a rarity. “Bread has become a luxury we can’t afford. You should see the congestion around distribution cars. It’s terrible,” said Najwa.

“This has pushed many women to make bread in their houses, relying on primitive ovens. I cannot afford to buy fuel for the oven. I’m using pieces of fabric and clothes instead. You have to be innovative in such a crisis,” Najwa added.

Najwa making bread in her home

A long battle ahead

In a country with an exhausted economy and decimated healthcare facilities, it’s not only about fighting the virus itself but about withstanding its aftershocks. Oxfam, in collaboration with local partner Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD), is continuously stepping up efforts to support vulnerable families by providing soaps and cleaning materials, to help people maintain good hygiene practices. We are also increasing the supply of clean water, as well as distributing cash assistance to help people and families struggling to put food on the table.

No one really knows when the pandemic will be over, but what we do know is that it can engulf entire communities. People must get the help they need. It could literally mean life or death to many vulnerable communities in Syria.

Photos: Dania Kareh/ Oxfam

Ireland one of only 29 countries to respond to Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2020

  • Donors slash funding to Yemen by half to 21 cents a day per person in need

  • Catastrophic impact of cuts to funding already being felt – Oxfam

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Donors have given the equivalent of 21 cents per day for each of the 24.3 million people in need in Yemen, almost half the amount given last year, Oxfam warned today.

The dramatic cuts come despite COVID-19 heaping further challenges on a country already suffering the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

In contrast to some donors cutting their contribution to the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan by almost 50 percent in 2020, the Irish government has nearly matched its 2019 commitment.

More than a third of the UN’s humanitarian programmes have already been cut back, with some completely shut down between April and August due to the funding shortage. Cuts include a reduction in services at 300 health centres and in food distributions across the country.

More than five years of conflict, the destruction of homes and basic infrastructure, in addition to increased prices of food and a lack of job opportunities, have all contributed to leave a population deprived of the essentials, including food, clean water and healthcare.

Muhsin Siddiquey, Country Director of Oxfam Yemen said: “While the economic fallout unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of the globe, in Yemen millions are on the brink of starvation.

"Yemenis had already suffered the hardships of more than five years of conflict before the pandemic wreaked further havoc, leaving them acutely vulnerable to disease and hunger. The international community urgently needs to step up funding for Yemen as well as honouring the pledges already made so that people can get the lifesaving aid they need.”

In real terms, the impact of the cut in aid is likely to be even greater than it appears because a depreciation in the Yemeni Rial has pushed up prices beyond the reach of millions. In Yemen, 21 cents would buy 200 grams of kidney beans or three eggs, according to the latest available market data, from July.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The UN’s appeal for funds to supply people with clean water, food, shelter and medicine in 2020 is just 40 percent funded. According to the UN’s Financial Tracking Service, almost all donors have given substantially less money this year, including four of the biggest donors last year– the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - even though the number of people in need in Yemen has risen from 22.2 million to 24.3 million.

“Considering the ongoing situation in Yemen, described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, it is good to see Irish government consistently respond to the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, with over 4.6 million committed this year – making Ireland one of only 29 countries to respond to the 2020 appeal.

“In response to this dire shortage in funding, which will result in even further suffering, Oxfam Ireland’s winter appeal will focus on Yemen. Funds raised through our winter appeal will support the distribution of cash transfers, vouchers, and cash-for-work projects, hygiene packs and the rehabilitation of infrastructure to ensure access to clean, safe water - supporting and protecting the people of Yemen and other communities most in need across the world.”

ENDS

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes to editors

Yemen 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan - donor list

Yemen 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan - donor list

Donations to fund the humanitarian response in Yemen are registered by the UN’s Financial Tracking Service. Daily amounts were calculated using the total amount donated to Yemen in 2019 and 2020 (both inside and outside the Humanitarian Response Plan) and the UN’s total number of people in need. Only recorded commitments have been included in this analysis; pledges have not been accounted for, and nor has funding that has not been recorded by the Financial Tracking Service. The figure for 2020 was calculated up to and including 21st September 2020.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported market data for Yemen in July.

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