Voices July 2020

You & Oxfam, tackling poverty together

Thanks to you...

With support and solidarity from kind, caring people like you, we’ve changed so many people’s lives for the better. Our advocacy work in Cambodia has contributed to the government’s decision to pause the building of hydropower dams, protecting fisheries that the population rely on for food and employment. Our extractive industries work continues to have a big impact in southern Africa. Recently in Malawi, a community used our lobbying toolkit to put pressure on a coal mining company to deliver promised infrastructure. The company has now built a footbridge for the community and repaired a water borehole that was damaged, in exchange for consent to operate in the area. Below you’ll meet just a few of the many people around the globe whose lives have been uplifted thanks to your compassion and generosity. Thank you.
Photo credit: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam

The sweet taste of independence

Farming and selling honey is enabling women in the highlands of Papua New Guinea to earn a living and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt working with vulnerable communities around the world, it’s that helping people gain financial independence is the best way to help them kick poverty and inequality.

So, with your support, we’ve been empowering women in Papua New Guinea to make a sustainable living through beekeeping.

In partnership with community organisations, local businesses and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Oxfam has been providing training, kits and market solutions to women like Onano John.

Onano is a bee farmer who got her start after attending a series of training workshops offered by Oxfam partner, New Guinea Fruit Co LTD. The mother of three young children jumped at the opportunity to learn new ways of earning an income.

“I attended three trainings but I had no bee hives so Sally [Managing Director of New Guinea Fruit] saw that I was interested so she gave me a box which started me off,” recalls Onano.

“I was excited when I got the box. I took it home, made a stand for my first hive. I bought my veil, smoker, hive tool. Every morning and afternoon, I would check that one hive. When I saw that there were many bees and were going to produce honey, I bought another box, wax, spray. I was excited about farming bees.”

Onano’s commitment and enthusiasm paid off and before long she was earning enough from her harvest to employ her husband, send her children to school and save for a more substantial farm.

“I am very happy with New Guinea Fruit Company because the company gave me that one box which I looked after and grew fast my bee farming. I earned a huge income from the sale of honey. I’m happy because that money helped me and my family.”

None of this would have been possible without you — so thank you.

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Photo credit: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam

Taking down Goliath

Some powerful advocacy work in Timor-Leste has empowered communities to amplify their voices, claim their rights, and achieve an incredible land justice victory.

Colonial rule historically upsets traditional systems of land ownership. In the case of Timor-Leste, the country has been struggling since Portuguese and Indonesian occupation, when different land title systems were introduced, taking land from the people.

“So now we have a big challenge after independence on how to establish ownership of land,” says Oxfam TimorLeste’s Research and Policy Analyst Mana (Mrs) Inês Martins.

It’s a crucial but challenging issue in the country. Mana Inês explains: “80% of people are dependent on agriculture in Timor-Leste for their livelihoods. And 90% of people, especially in rural areas, manage land through customary traditional systems or tribes.”

Since independence, the Government of Timor-Leste and international partners have undertaken a range of interventions with the aim of strengthening the land administration system, but none have solved all the issues.

In 2014 two private companies, with no previous experience on land registration, were contracted to work across TimorLeste and ensure all land was registered. But there were major problems with how they rolled out the project.

Some of the land registration processes the companies used contradicted national laws; were not set up to recognise community owned or customary land; and were not transparent.

The processes used also made some people more vulnerable, including customary groups which owned VOICES JULY 2020 11 customary land and those already in a vulnerable position such as orphans, persons with disabilities and women.

With only one name allowed to be included in registrations, joint customary or communal ownership could not be registered and couples were not able to submit a claim together, even though this is allowed by law. Land registration by women was subsequently very low.

So Oxfam and a network of local partner and community organisations called Rede Ba Rai — Timor-Leste’s National Land Network — published a report identifying weaknesses of the project, highlighting data and people’s stories, and calling for change.

“Based on the report recommendations, in January this year, Oxfam and the local partner network Rede Ba Rai met with the Legal Department of the Ministry of Justice. They said that the Minister of Justice decided to end the contract with the National Cadastre Process by July 2020,” reveals Mana Inês.

“The Ministry has said they want to work closely with Oxfam and the Rede Ba Rai Land Network on developing complimentary land laws in the future.”

The Oxfam team are delighted that the data and recommendations in the report helped the Ministry of Justice to review the project and accept its serious issues.

Now, with the Rede Ba Rai Land Network and Oxfam being asked to monitor and offer technical support to the Government’s plans for land registration in the future, the people of Timor-Leste — and particularly those most vulnerable — can be placed squarely at the centre of policy.

And with COVID-19 also affecting Timor-Leste, the Rede Ba Rai Land Network is now monitoring the effects of the pandemic on land rights and campaigning for no state evictions to happen during this time, while people are at their most vulnerable.

This has only been possible with the help of supporters like you.

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*Name changed to protect identity

Photo credit: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam

Rural resilience in the face of climate change

It’s a tragic fact that many of the countries which contribute the least to global climate pollution are the ones that are being hit hardest by the climate crisis.

Pakistan is one such country. Ranked fifth on the Global Climate Risk Index for 2020, Pakistan is experiencing a dramatic increase in climate-fuelled disasters.

The Badin district — home to 1.8 million people — is particularly vulnerable to frequent floods and drought-like conditions. With increased water scarcity, changing rainfall patterns and land degradation, accessing clean water and growing food is increasingly difficult for the population, the majority of whom live rurally.

It’s a situation that Hooran (pictured centre right) knows all too well. Growing up, Hooran’s village had ample water, food and access to everything that the community needed, but this has changed dramatically.

“Because of climate change, we are suffering from unseasonal rains … and sometimes the rains don’t come at all,” she says. “There was a cyclone and the floods destroyed all of the crops and farming land. We are running out of clean drinking water as well.”

To address these issues, thanks to generous people like you, Hooran has now received leadership training on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.

With support from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, we are helping communities in Badin prepare for, adapt to and mitigate climate and disaster risks through our Building Resilient Communities in Badin program.

Focusing on small-scale farmers and women, young people and people with a disability, the program is providing communities with irrigation systems, and training on climate-resilient agricultural practices. Alternative sources of income are also being established for those who can’t rely on farming.

Mehrunnisa (top right) and her husband Haji are farmers but their land has been barren since 2003. Now, as part of the program — run with local partner Laar Humanitarian and Development Programme (LHDP) — Mehrunnisa has received a high-efficiency irrigation system and training on innovative ways to grow crops in extreme conditions.

Finally, the family can grow enough vegetables to eat and sell.

“Before, when we were seeding the land, we just used to throw the seeds out across the land. Now, we are very careful. Every seed we plant we are very careful with where it goes because we are also trying to grow multiple crops. We are growing bitter gourd, ladyfinger (okra), chilis and lemons,” outlines the mother of six.

“Another change in our practices is that we have stopped using pesticides that you buy from the market. We are using natural alternatives like neem and cow dung. We are able to save money now because of this cost-saving.”

Haji adds: “We hope everyone from our community gets the opportunity to practice this [training] because we have been able to lift ourselves out of trouble, and we would like for them to be able to do this, too.”

Kanwal (top left) has also received Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction training, as well as Women’s Leadership Training. She says her confidence has grown immensely and the women of her village are feeling empowered by her training, also.

“After the second phase of the project with LHDP, we started forming community organisations and we elected women to be the presidents and general secretaries of these organisations,” she says. “Before our organisations were formed there was a lack of equality between men and women. Now, there is equality and equal representation.”

Kanwal says the training has enabled her community to establish kitchen gardens, which will not only provide families with essential food but also address the malnutrition so many children have suffered from in recent years. “The land available to all of us at the moment is not the best for growing seeds. So first we are preparing the land; we are digging it up, adding manure and mud and getting it ready for planting.

“LHDP and Oxfam have done a lot to support us. If these joint efforts continue, there is no limit to how much change can happen in our village.”

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Photo credit: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam

Community made empowerment

Fiji is a country with deeply entrenched gender inequality but, thanks to your support, women are gaining independence and a voice in their communities and their homes.

For more than 60 years, Oxfam’s mission has been to tackle poverty and inequality. And we have learnt that one of the most fundamental ways to do this is to empower women and girls.

When women and girls have access to education and an income, they’re in a better position to make their own financial and personal decisions, take on leadership roles Fiji is a country with deeply entrenched gender inequality but, thanks to your support, women are gaining independence and a voice in their communities and their homes. Community Made empowerment and stand up to abuse. A woman with even a modest income can also free her family from extreme poverty. So Oxfam supports Rise Beyond the Reef (RBTR), a Fiji-based organisation to empower women in remote rural communities.

Founded in 2013, RBTR focuses on income-generating projects — as research and discussions with communities highlighted this was the most effective way to empower rural women.

“Arts and crafts production was trialled alongside experiments in floriculture and women’s cooperative vegetable farms,” says Program Director, Janet Lotawa. “The women earned more from the arts and crafts and more quickly, so our focus went there.”

The resulting project — Community Made — not only brings women together to learn and share traditional craft-making skills; it also provides leadership and financial training, and helps the women sell their gorgeous artisan crafts. Last year to increase earnings, Community Made took its crafts to the world, launching an online store that now reaches Australia and America.

A recent assessment of the program — which is the largest economic development program for rural remote women in Fiji — found that participants have increased confidence, skills and financial independence, enabling them to invest in their home, community, children’s education and also to save.

“You’re giving women an actual tool to leverage their voice and choice.” — Janet Lotawa

And with that, overturning gender inequality. Nearly all respondents reported an improved relationship with their partners, greater awareness that violence of any form is unacceptable, and greater participation in community decision-making.

“You’re giving women an actual tool to leverage their voice and choice,” – Janet.

For more information and to buy Community Made products go to risebeyondthereef.org

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Photo credit: Aurelie Marrier D'Unienville / Oxfam

Washing away poverty in Zimbabwe

Takudzwa Chihangya is passionate about getting water to the rural communities of her country, so she studied engineering and is now lead engineer for our WECARE program.

Being the only woman in a class of 15 men was challenging, says Taku, of her degree in agricultural engineering. “My grandmother came to say, ‘Why are you choosing a male profession, what’s wrong with you my granddaughter?’ But because it was something I really wanted, I had to take up the challenge.”

In her own words, Taku loves water. And more than that, she feels strongly about the impact that access to water has on the women of Zimbabwe.

“You’d find most women walk a long distance to fetch water, to do other activities that require water like laundry. They have to walk a distance of 2km or more to fetch water and they’ll actually do that maybe two or three times a day,” she explains. “So on average they would spend four hours a day fetching water only.”

Following her degree and an internship in water irrigation, Taku completed a master’s degree in water resources engineering and is now lead engineer for our Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WECARE) program.

“There was no water before [in clinics] so when patients would come they would have to bring their own water,” – Taku.

“My role in this project is to see that the population or the communities that we are working in have access to clean water and that this water helps in the reduction of burden of unpaid care work,” she says.

To do this, Taku oversees the design and implementation of a solar-powered water system, which pipes water from a deep borehole into rural villages that don’t otherwise have water, including key facilities like schools and clinics.

Now, Taku is proudly witnessing the improved health, wellbeing and equality that stems from her work.

“When you do something out of love, out of passion, you’ll definitely do a good job and achieve results.”

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