International Women’s Day at Oxfam – in video

Over the last decades, women in many countries have managed to secure labour rights and protection from violence, access to sexual and reproductive health, and political rights to reach the highest positions of leadership. Despite some progress, there is consensus that real change has been slow for most women and girls in the world. They continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces.

This year, during the International Women’s Day (IWD) we asked Oxfam staff what actions they can take as individuals to challenge stereotypes, fight prejudice and celebrate women's achievements. Below are their responses.

First, “the biggest place we can make a difference is in working with the youth, to be able to expose them to opportunities where they can grow and work outside the constrictions of gender. As a mother, I will be raising boys who will not see these differences,” said Parvin Ngala, the Regional Head of Programmes at Oxfam in HECA.

Second, “we as men, should be listening to girls and women more. We need to continue giving them platforms to voice their concerns and take action to address their needs. Gender equality is not a female issue, it’s a social and economic imperative. It’s vital that we include men in this equation,” said Justin Okwir, the Regional Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor at Oxfam in HECA.

Third, “we as women should be united in speaking up. If we speak up, the world will listen and eventually, we will move up the chain and take up leadership positions,” said Nancy Njoroge, the Executive Coordinator to the Executive Director at Oxfam International.

Fourth, “the action that we women should take is to ensure that girls are encouraged to go to school. It is only through education that girls will be able to know their rights and participate fully,” said Margaret Asewe, the Regional Public Health Promoter at Oxfam in HECA.

Fifth, “we can achieve anything we want to, regardless of our gender. We should understand that we are equal. What men can do, women can also do and sometimes even better,” said David Barisa, the Regional Influencing & Campaigns Manager at Oxfam in HECA.

The IWD is a moment when we take time to celebrate the hard won freedoms that so many women and girls around the world now enjoy, and to remember those fearless women who came before us to make this possible. We also take a moment to celebrate each other as women, young and old, different races and ethnicities, from different parts of the world, differently abled and status, because when all is said and done, we need each other and together we are stronger!

So, how can we move forward to advance equality if we’re moving backwards? The good news is that there is recognition on the importance of African feminist-identified women to be included in political and economic policy spaces to offer an African feminist perspective to policies that may seem gender-neutral but are harmful to women.

The feminist movement, in recent years, has been an important factor not just for International Women’s Day, but also for Oxfam HECA’s programme priorities. A good case in point is the recent feminist workshop (from 23rd-24th January 2020) conducted by Oxfam in HECA in collaboration with HIVOS and with funding Oxfam America (OUS). The workshop brought together 25 feminist academics and activists from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe to reflect on issues affecting the feminist movements in Africa.

As we enter the Decade of Action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Oxfam acknowledges that more work is needed to mainstream SGD 5 – Gender Equality in all our work.

“As women, we must continue to speak up and fight inequalities,” said Nesrine Aly, the News Manager at Oxfam International.