The Unending Scandal of OXFAM

Human Rights Fellow
Founder/Executive Director

NGOs and Non Profits are entities designed to help people locally, nationally and globally. In some cases millions of dollars are funneled into these organizations with the belief that it serves the greater good. Who really knows where the money goes, all we see is children getting clean water or food, women rescued from being victims of war and conflict, services and resources getting to those who are lacking because of political unrest. But when an NGO who claims to be helping and supporting women and children are the very entity that is harming them, we must draw the line and call it out. Oxfam’s scandal in Haiti that uncovered sexual abuse by it’s aids workers of women and children cost the organization 7,000 cancelled donations by steady donors forcing them to make a £16 million cut in aid projects. Caroline Thomson, the Chairwoman of Trustees, said that Oxfam has workers risking their lives in the most lawless countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The same Country that saw UN Peacekeepers joining in the rapes of Sudanese women claiming that all the men in uniform were committing these injustices and there was so much distress on the woman they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The distinction was made and there was an international outcry for justice to be served. We’re still waiting.

Making the claim that because of civil unrest it’s hard for anyone to know what’s happening and therefore it’s not our fault is not an excuse to cover up rape and sexual assault just because you don’t want to lose donors. The Charity Commission is taking the allegations by victims in Haiti very seriously while the NGO is thinking about their donors and their reputation. When the beneficiaries themselves raised complaints, Oxfam GB along with the UN removed their aid workers and peacekeepers from having close contact with their victims in the camps and repatriated them back into the conflict zones where they can go unnoticed. This was done to protect their colleagues and further protect the organization. The charity Commissions report sums up the poor investigation Oxfam and how they put vulnerable children at risk with staff that was supposed to protect them.

Oxfam in Haiti

Only now is Oxfam coming to terms that they can no longer hide the pain and the same they have caused in Haiti and other countries. So many of us work hard to make sure that women and children are protected from violence, sexual violence and rape, big NGOs like Oxfam are making it increasingly difficult for the rest of us who are not abusing women and children to educate people on why we need their help. They are desensitizing society at large as to what it means to support this type of work. Can they trust us? Where is the money really going? Why are there so many executives with high salaries and people are still suffering? Doing human rights work is not the same as working for a multinational corporation, there shouldn’t be a six or more figure salary complete with a high end lifestyle. This is a sacrifice, a willingness to let go of material things to help and speak out against the suffering of others in a selfless manner. I’ve said this before, if you are going into the NGO or Non Profit sector for the money, you are in the wrong industry.

Donors are always the last to know because they see the big name and all the favor they have and assume this is a credible organization doing great work. They are kept in the dark about unsavory practices and systematic abuses. Even the biggest human rights organization in the world, the UN is not with out it’s own scandals and sicknesses but we still have the Commission on the Status of Women there every March. We need to stop looking away when these things happen, giving money to NGOs that will continue to perpetuate the cycle of abuse will only exacerbate the issue further. We have to see that something this big and well funded is in danger of being run as a corporate entity and not as a place that is working for the people who have no one to turn to. Unfortunately there will be more of these stories rearing their ugly heads with other NGOs and Non Profits. But for those of us who know this work, do it with respect and dignity while trying to live on a strict low income, will have the last say and be the voice that has been silenced for so many by the privatization of human rights work.

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