With 2008 behind us, we’re highlighting photos we think best capture Oxfam’s work last year.
Here at Oxfam America’s headquarters we have all the writers sharing one small area of the office. It’s me and three women: Coco, Anna, and Andrea. I grew up with three sisters (one older and two younger…no brothers) so it is all rather disturbingly familiar. I know it is not easy to share an office with me, what with all the loud phone calls in my bad French and even worse Spanish. I therefore dedicate my best pictures of 2008 blog post to my office mates, because it I am constantly impressed by the hard work women do to eradicate poverty, here at the office and everywhere I go.
Last January I visited this pond in southern Ethiopia, where an ethnic Borena woman helped pass water up to the troughs for cows to drink. Oxfam America helped build this pond in a place called Gololcha, where more than 4,000 cows a day can get water during the dry season. Borena women are not routinely consulted about how to manage water resources like this one, but the men did not seem to mind this strong woman pitching in to the hard labor. With changes in rainfall patterns and scarce pastures in this area of Ethiopia, the Borena people will have to start encouraging women to take a more active role in creating ways for them to survive the dry times.
March: In the village of Welgavel, in South Africa’s North West province, I met Lebogang Molefi (right), 33, a home-based care giver for people living with HIV and AIDS. At that time she was affiliated with a local community service organization, and was visiting a patient named Maria Mogale (left). Care givers help chronically ill patients with cooking, cleaning, bathing, and ensure they take their medication. They do a lot of counseling, so patients (especially women) understand their right to get the antiretroviral medication and other health care they need to survive. Lebogang said this work is difficult. When she first became a care giver, she said, “you take the problems of others and put them in your own shoes, your own mind.” With experience, Lebogang said she became accustomed to the work. I heard some months later that Lebogang had left her job as a care giver. Perhaps it was the emotional burden, or the difficulty of supporting her handicapped son on the small stipend the government pays home-care workers. But she was a good example of the way women in South Africa have had to step up and meet the demand for health care and other services the government cannot deliver.
November: Nina Palomino, 24, weaving in the small indigenous Ashaninka village of San Ramon de Pangoa, Peru. Oxfam America is helping a local organization called SEPAR with a program to grow more and better crops, and help indigenous artisans to produce and sell their wares to tourists. All over this Central Jungle region in Peru Ashaninka women are weaving, making jewelry and other souvenirs, working in the fields, and caring for their families. As the Ashaninka continue to create ways to earn more money and preserve their culture, women are leading their families in reinventing their handicrafts for commercial sale. (Look for my story about San Ramon in the next OxfamExchange magazine coming out this month.)