Oxfam supports Safe Schools

Campaigning for change, Educating for change, Blogs article written on the 31 Mar 2016

By Kate Phillips, Schools Program Coordinator

I am super proud to announce Oxfam Australia has become an official supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition, pledging our support for the vital program it provides for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families.

Why did we do this?

It’s pretty simple, really. Here at Oxfam, we work with schools in Australia to foster active global citizenship. This is part of our broader work towards creating a just world without poverty.

A core element of education for active global citizenship is challenging misinformation and stereotypes, countering ignorance and intolerance and challenging individuals to live out ethical values, attitudes and behaviours. While our focus in doing this is to end poverty and injustice, it makes sense for us to stand in solidarity with and state our support for the Safe Schools program — as an ally in working towards a world that is more just, peaceful, harmonious and fair.

Our first strategic goal at Oxfam is ‘the right to be heard’. It recognises that everyone should be able to speak up for their rights, and speak out against injustices and that decision-makers must listen and respond to our voices.

We are proud to add our voice alongside many other organisations supporting the Safe Schools Coalition. We join with them and pledge to stand up against homophobia and transphobia whenever we see or hear it. It’s our hope that students can go to school without fear; teachers and principals who have access to the support, resources and training they need to create safe and supportive school environments; and parents and primary caregivers who know the program can provide a life-saving service.

As the Schools Program Coordinator at Oxfam, I knew that it was simply the right thing for us to add our name to the long list of supporter organisations. I watched as organisation after organisation added its name, but I waited for a little while before proposing it to my managers. Why?

Because I have experienced, both personally and professionally — in previous organisations — bullying, discrimination and harassment for my own sexual orientation.

I know how traumatic it is, and what impact it has on one’s life. Even though I’m now in an organisation that clearly demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion — both in the workplace and in the work we do — I was scared to bring it up. But in the schools program we help students to develop the values, attitudes, behaviours and skills they need to take action on issues they care about.

So, I took a bit of our own advice. And I’m so glad I did.

I am humbled and extremely happy to now be working for an organisation that not only says it values and respects diversity and inclusion, but is also not afraid to put this into action. This should be a given for anywhere, just as the kids who experience homophobia and transphobia at schools shouldn’t have to go through that.

But the fact is this does happen, it is still a reality, and it needs to change. The Safe Schools program has a proven track record for bringing about that change.

Here’s to working together for a more just, peaceful, harmonious and fair world.

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