HUDDERSFIELD girls are the first from the North of England to join thousands across the UK who are partying to help poor women around the world.
They are ditching the scales and the diets and are making instead a special New Year’s resolution: Make some time this year to celebrate themselves and women who every day fight against poverty.
Women are organising a ‘Do’ to raise money for Oxfam during the week on International Women’s Day.
In March over 2,000 women around Britain will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day by holding an Oxfam Do.
Huddersfield and the rest of the country will see an unprecedented number of dinner parties, barn dances, film nights, clothes swaps and more as women come out in force to celebrate in whatever way they feel fit.
A total of 700 million women around the world live on less than $2 per day. Far too often, all over the world, women are told, ‘don’t’. Oxfam is about supporting and celebrating women who ‘do’, all over the world, every day; women who fight to survive in refugee camps, to feed their children, to earn a living.
Oxfam is asking Huddersfield women to join them and to celebrate the strength, resilience and the achievements of mothers like Karo, who is fighting against the odds to raise her child in a refugee camp and girls like Anna, who works a 12 hours shift picking rugs in a rubbish dump in India, and still wants to go to school.
Karo escaped from her village, Rutshuru, to find refuge in a camp in Goma during the devastating conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is now raising her beautiful son, Happiness, in an Oxfam supported camp.
‘I came here in the camp in August 2007 from Rutshuru. I live with my aunt, my mother’s sister, my sister in law, and her five children.
‘I had to flee my village because of the attacks by the military. I am the youngest. I have one brother and one sister. My father is dead. My mother left first with my brother. I stayed behind with Lucy, my sister, to look after their belongings. They told us that if the situation gets worse we should run.
‘The Mai Mai rebel soldiers came to attack my village to defeat the national army. There was shooting then it went quiet so we thought that the situation would calm down, but it didn’t. The attack happened at night. We had no choice but to run.
‘As a mother it is really important to have clean water in the camp. We don’t just use water for cooking we use it for washing ourselves and cleaning our pots. We also have showers and toilets here that we can use. If I hadn’t managed to reach this camp we would have died.’
Ten years since the start of the brutal war here, the DRC has become the world’s deadliest conflict since World War Two. Yet, until today, you probably won’t have heard about the horrors that people in this region have had to live through. Because this conflict rarely reaches our TV screens. In the east of the country, more than five million civilians have been killed. Every day, civilians fear eviction, rape, severe injury, or even death. More than one million people have had to flee from their homes. Many thousands more have died trying.
Oxfam is helping survivors to stay alive. Many are now taking refuge in overcrowded camps, where we’re supplying, installing and maintaining water tanks and tap stands. In cramped conditions, it’s vital to ensure that everyone has enough clean water. Without it, diseases will spread quickly and more people will die. People here hope that, one day, peace will return. Only then will they be able to return their villages and homes without fear. And Oxfam will still be there, working with communities as they replant their crops and rebuild their destroyed homes, schools, wells, and livelihoods.
The rag-picking community of Shanti Busti (literally “Peace Slum”) comprises 210 households. Originally from Assam, their language and culture differs from the wider population of Lucknow who speak Hindi. They are discriminated against because of the low status of the rag-pickers’ work together with their minority status.
The rag-pickers families pay quite a high rent over the land upon which Shanti Busti is built to a “landlord”, who, in return, provides them some protection from eviction by the government.
With funding from Oxfam, the Vigyan Foundation is supporting rag-picking communities like this one – through schools, and water and sanitation activities including toilets, water pumps, and health volunteers. The schools act as a bridge from the community to the government schools. Books, slates, school bags, a blackboard, games, mats and teacher training are provided, and the teacher’s wage is also paid for by Oxfam.
The school promotes hygiene awareness among the 30 pupils who regularly attend, and teachers take the children out on regular social and cultural trips. As well as opening outside the hours during which rag-picking children work, the timetable stresses the need for play and recreation that is often absent from the lives of working children. The school allows children to bring along the younger siblings for whom many must care. It is basically built around them and around their families’ needs. This means that little girls like Anna who is only 8 years old, can still go to school. And despite having to pick rags for up to 12 hours in a row, she has still bags of energy to learn and hopefully, build a better future for herself.
Esther Fisher, from Oxfam Do organiser in the North of England, says: “The Oxfam Do is a really easy, fun and sociable way of raising money for those living in poverty. Every penny that you raise will go directly to support women in poor countries. The ‘Do’ brings us one step closer to millions of women across the globe that needs our help and support. Join in and party with us!”
To sign up for an Oxfam Do call Esther on 0161 234 2923/ 07738587107/ email email@example.com or click on to www.oxfam.org.uk/Celebration/Help