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Women Unlimited

Women Unlimited.
Poverty Undone.

Oxfam puts women at the heart of everything we do. Not just because it's right, but because it's the best way to end poverty.

Every day, in every country, women's efforts to escape poverty are blocked by violence, abuse and discrimination. But when a woman is unlimited she will use her potential to help end poverty ‐ not just for herself, but for everyone else.


Alex and Ethel Zambia

Alex and Ethel live in Zambia, where almost 75% of people live below the poverty line. For most people here, life is tough – but it’s even tougher for the country’s women. Around half of women in Zambia have experienced physical or sexual violence. For devoted fathers like Alex, it’s a worrying statistic.

But Alex is working with Oxfam to change the future for his daughter. Alex is part of Oxfam’s I Care About Her project, which works with local communities to end violence against women and girls. The project focuses on challenging and changing traditional – but extremely damaging – attitudes and beliefs that put women at risk and keep them in poverty. For example, where Alex lives, it is widely believed that a man can earn respect by hitting a woman.

Alex says: “It is because of my love for Ethel that I am taking part in this project. I believe that when people see me looking after Ethel, they see me as a good example for the community. I bring my daughter to the discussions as well, I believe it is a good lesson for her.”

Through the I Care About Her programme, Oxfam is helping boys and men like Alex to champion women in their communities – and challenge violence wherever they find it. More generally, we’re working with women, their partners, traditional and faith leaders, and the media so that everyone can help women live without fear. The bottom line is that parents like Alex now have more hope for their children’s future.

We’re not just creating change in Zambia. Right now, we’re working in 40 countries to make violence against women and girls illegal. It’s vital work because, incredibly, one-in-three women suffer violence worldwide. We believe this is totally indefensible and has no place in a fair world. Thanks to our supporters, we’re helping women to demand their rights and use their potential to end poverty for good.


Neem Mibimba Democratic Republic of Congo

Neem is a farmer living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she’s spent years trying to escape conflict. Women and girls here are at high risk of violence from armed groups and even local officials. Women working in often remote fields and farmland are extremely vulnerable and, until recently, Neem lived in fear of being raped or beaten. Terrified, she was struggling to grow enough food for her family – let alone to leave poverty behind.

Everything changed when Neem got involved in an Oxfam Women’s Forum which brought local women together to discuss the specific challenges they face – from staying safe through to the ever-present threat of child marriage. The group gives women like Neem the support they need to speak out in public forums. Together, they’re learning how to stand up for their rights and gain the confidence and freedom they need to end poverty for themselves and their families.

Neem says: “I was afraid when I farmed... One day I may flee many times. The forum met with the authorities to explain the problems and today the situation has changed. Now I can farm in peace.”

Oxfam runs Women’s Forums in communities around the world, making sure women understand their rights and how to fight for them. Neem knows just what a difference this can make: “I take part in the group because they push for women’s rights. It’s important work because there are so many women who don’t know they have rights.”


Saleha Begum Bangladesh

Saleha Begum lives in Panjar Bhangha village, in northern Bangladesh. It’s a beautiful place but monsoon rains – made worse by climate change – wash away land and homes every year. And in the dry months, there is very little work and families go hungry.

Women here are particularly vulnerable. The traditions of their society mean they are often forced to stay at home, which makes it virtually impossible for them to earn a living – no matter how hard they work.

Women in Panjar Bhangha have always raised cows but, since it is considered inappropriate for women to go to the market, they are unable to sell the milk. Even if they find a way to get the milk to market, women dairy farmers are still unlikely to get a fair price.

Life for women like Saleha is incredibly tough. But it got a little easier when Oxfam supporters helped to set up a women-run dairy co-operative. As well as providing women with cows, the co-operative helps women pool their resources so they can sell their milk in bulk. Oxfam’s local team also set up links with a national dairy company, which provides training and gives the dairy farmers a fair price for their cows’ milk.

Saleha says: “We’re able to change our lives. I’m selling milk so I can make money and be independent. I don’t have any land of my own, but now I can pay for a lease on some land to grow rice and vegetables.”

Now women like Saleha are earning more, they are able to buy food for their families, send their children to school and make their homes stronger so they are better prepared for the floods. But change isn't just happening in Bangladesh. From Zambia to Nepal, Oxfam is working around the world to ensure that women have an equal chance to live without poverty – and bring others with them.


Tika Darlami Nepal

It’s hard to believe now but, for more than 30 years, Tika rarely left her family home in Surkhet – imprisoned by the traditional values that limit many women living in Nepal’s remote, rural areas. Kept in the dark about their rights, women and girls here have very little freedom.

Oxfam has been working with communities like Tika’s to redress the balance, running classes to educate women about their rights in relation to issues like lack of freedom, domestic violence and alcohol abuse. For Tika, joining the Oxfam-run women’s discussion group has enabled her to play an active role in her community for the first time.

Tika says: “When I first wanted to go, my husband wasn’t keen and urged me not to. He told me that my primary job was to look after the home and that since I was illiterate I could do nothing useful there. Now, he feels proud of me – he teases me saying ‘Netaji’ (leader). He is happy to switch the responsibilities between us and do some of the household work that I used to do. He believes in empowering women. That change is due to the work of the group.”

The Oxfam project in Surkhet has given women like Tika the confidence to fight for their rights, start earning money and inspire their daughters to do the same. Worldwide, we’re working with women and girls living in poverty to build their confidence and take control of their lives. By donating to Oxfam, you can support incredible projects that help women work together to campaign for more freedom to use their own unlimited potential in the fight against poverty.

For Tika, the results are life-changing: “Now I walk with confidence. I feel that women can do any type of work, not just household work. My daughter is happy to see me being independent and taking decisions for the family. I am a totally different woman. Ten years from now, I expect my life to be even better. Nobody will hold me back!”


Akon Malek South Sudan

From conflict through to floods, when disaster strikes the world’s poorest people, Oxfam is there. And we stay on long after the dust settles to help vulnerable families to come back stronger. Of course, we’re there for everybody who needs us. But we also know that, in emergency situations, women face extra challenges.

Akon is a refugee, now living in South Sudan’s Malakal camp. She’s one of millions of people who have been forced from their homes because of violent conflict in the region. Families already living in poverty arrive at the camp every day, terrified and in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter.

In South Sudan for example, women like Akon are extremely marginalised. In camps like Malakal, the threat of sexual violence is ever present. So, as well as providing people in the camp with life-saving basics like clean water and toilets, Oxfam also gave solar lights to 6,000 families here to make women feel safer while using wash areas at night. We also set up water points in safe locations so women can stay away from isolated and potentially dangerous areas.

These might be relatively small changes but for women living in some of the worst conditions imaginable, a solar light or secure water point makes a huge difference. It’s not just one less worry for someone like Akon – it’s a reminder that she has not been forgotten.

We believe that every girl should be able to dream as big as every boy. That every woman has the right to make a fair living for herself and her family. That nobody deserves to be held back by violence, abuse or discrimination.

Inequality between women and men is everyone's problem to fix - because it's the only way to unlock the unlimited potential of women and girls to end poverty.

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