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Harpenden teenagers turn greedy grabbers for Oxfam stunt

6th Dec 2012

As the year sevens from Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden filed into their assembly last Thursday, 6th December, they were expecting a typical half hour of announcements, congratulations and perhaps the odd moan. However, the six young Oxfam campaigners, myself included, hiding behind the curtains had other ideas.

As we stood there listening to the muffled footsteps entering the hall, we were all filled with a sense of nervous excitement at the opportunity to make a dramatic and engaging entrance that lay ahead. The assembly started just like normal, but then the sirens started, accompanied by the voices from the CD player (our voices - pre-recorded) that told everyone that 'this is a land grab.'

As we strode purposefully out, placards in hand and kitted out in our hard hats and high visibility jackets, the shock on people's faces confirmed to us that no one had been expecting the intrusion. The audience, most of whom had never even heard of a land grab and none of whom had been expecting to ever have any experience of one, could only look on as we declared their assembly hall 'sold'.

Once the initial shock had subsided, it was time for us to tell our onlookers why we had taken over their assembly hall so suddenly and without any of their consent. At this point we scary land grabbers turned back into our more natural role of passionate campaigner, explaining that we were here as part of Oxfam's land grabs week of action to show our belief that that unfair land deals forcing families off their land and leaving them with no way to grow food or earn a living need to be stopped.

We also told the audience that the World Bank funds many big land deals and influences how land is bought and sold and encouraged them to join many others nationwide in calling on the World Bank to freeze its investment in land while it sets a fair standard for others to follow.

Although the assembly hall was soon returned to its rightful owners, the issue of land grabs is a very real one in many places around the world, with an area the size of London bought in developing countries every six days.

Find out more about land grabs and take action with Oxfam

By Miriam Quinn