First Person

Reflection by Oxfam America President Abby

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We continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form. We stand firmly against the exploitation and abuse of women and girls.

It should not surprise anyone that the revelations of sexual misconduct in Oxfam’s Haiti office in 2011 rocked me. We have now heard of allegations of staff members in Chad using sex workers in 2006. And in response to these allegations, we learned on February 12 of the resignation of Penny Lawrence, the deputy chief executive of Oxfam Great Britain. As a leader accountable for safeguarding our staff, partners, and beneficiaries, as a woman, as a mother, and as a human being, I am appalled and dismayed. We are an organization of the highest principles and values. We serve and hold a mission that has as its center the protection of the most vulnerable in the world.

And, ashamed though I am of the behavior of these former staff, I am deeply committed to assuring that we will learn and uncover anything necessary from these events. New measures put in place help Oxfam better prevent abuse, sexual harassment, and exploitation from happening. Our response in the past clearly did not meet the standards that we have today. We could have done more including, but not limited to, sharing more information in our public communications.

Globally and at Oxfam America, we continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form and we offer our support to victims of these egregious violations of our principles, values, and what we hold dear and believe.

Oxfam’s priority is to stand fully by the survivors of such reprehensible behavior—and to ensure that such behavior is absolutely expunged from our organization. We stand firmly against the exploitation and abuse of women and girls.

I am proud to lead Oxfam America. I am proud of our staff who have, like me, felt shame and disappointment in their former colleagues but who are determined not to be discouraged.

My belief in Oxfam—Oxfam America and our entire confederation—has not wavered. I have known this organization through my work in this sector for more than 30 years. I know it to be an organization of the highest integrity. Now, from my vantage point within Oxfam, nothing has changed but my resolve that Oxfam will be the standard-bearer for the highest levels of safeguarding and for our unflagging commitment to the dignity of the people we serve.

We will work tirelessly to rebuild your trust—our incredible supporters, partners, and volunteers—who work together with us around the globe to fight the injustice of poverty. I am confident in our ability to weather this challenge together and remain deeply appreciative of your commitment to our shared vision of the future.

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