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Annual Report 2019-2020

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In 2019-2020, we made significant progress in the fight against global poverty by leveraging all of our energy, resources and expertise to tackle inequality and promote women’s rights around the world.

This was a year of leadership transition for Oxfam Canada – with the Executive Director baton passed from Julie Delahanty to Lauren Ravon. Kate Higgins stepped in to act as Interim Executive Director until January 2021 while Lauren was on parental leave.

Looking back on the year, we are very proud of what we accomplished together. With your support, and working with local partners, Oxfam was there to provide life-saving support to those suffering from the prolonged and devastating conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. We provided immediate and vital assistance to communities in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe following Cyclone Idai. In Bangladesh, we continued to support Rohingya refugees with programming that tackles the deep-seated gender injustices that prevent women from claiming their rights. Our partnerships with local organizations are helping communities rebuild while also addressing the unique needs of women who are most affected when disaster and conflict strike.

We launched four new global programs that build the power of women and their organizations to claim their rights and find long-lasting and far-reaching solutions to end poverty in their communities. Our Securing Rights program in Bangladesh seeks to empower and organize women domestic workers and influence policymakers to recognize the value of domestic work. Our Camino Verde program in Guatemala supports the development of sustainable businesses led by Indigenous women and youth. Our Women’s Voice and Leadership programs in Guatemala and Pakistan are strengthening women’s movements and organizations as critical civil society actors.

This year we continued to speak truth to power, advocating and campaigning to change the laws and practices that keep people trapped in poverty and perpetuate inequality. Following years of persistent advocacy alongside our allies, we were thrilled that the Government of Canada showed bold, feminist leadership by making a historic commitment at Women Deliver to invest $700 million a year in sexual and reproductive health and rights programming globally. We continued to call on the Government of Canada to cancel its arms deal with Saudi Arabia. We worked hard to shine a light on the importance of investing in the paid and unpaid care economy, as one of the most powerful ways to tackle women’s economic inequality.

The world is changing quickly, and we will continue to innovate and change too. We are committed to ensuring our work is grounded in our feminist principles and that everyone who works with and for us feels safe. We are committed to sharing power more equally across our organization, and doing everything we can to ensure that those on the frontlines of social justice struggles have the resources they need. We are taking steps to become a more collective, streamlined and efficient global confederation, to maximize our impact.

We loved connecting this year with our supporters across Canada. It is the collective power of our supporters across Canada that propels our work forward. Thank you for your trust and generosity. A just and sustainable world, where everyone can safely speak truth to power, claim their rights and build a better future for themselves, is possible. Thank you for continuing this important work with us.

Kate Higgins & Ricardo Acuña


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It’s time to end child marriage

“Marriage should be for adults, at the proper time, and out of free will.”

It seems like an obvious statement to make around marriage. But when you consider a country like the Philippines, which currently ranks 12th highest in the world as it relates to child marriage with 726,000 child brides, that statement by Filipino Senator Risa Hontiveros packs a little more punch. And it’s why the senator, along with several women’s rights organizations and Oxfam Pilipinas, have been working together for several years to make the proposed Girls Not Brides Act a law.

If the Girls not Brides Act, which is being pushed to a vote in the Philippines’ Senate in January 2021, is enacted into law, child marriage will be prohibited and declared illegal, and any person who facilitates and/or performs a marriage would be criminally prosecuted.

The vote couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. With the global pandemic going into its seventh month, Sen. Hontiveros said she believes the “number [of child brides] may increase as many Filipinos will have been driven further into poverty, which is one of the main drivers of child marriages.”

If the Girls Not Brides Act does become law, it would be a major win for all involved – and yet, it would only be the first step in a long process of breaking down a societal system of entrenched gender inequality that has fostered child marriage as a norm in the Philippines.

“One challenge is the mixed reception from some stakeholder groups, as the bill goes against long-held cultural beliefs and practices,” Sen. Hontiveros explained.

“These systems of beliefs are often driven by economic contingencies. Incidents of child marriages increase in areas suffering from persistent poverty, disasters, armed conflict, and other crisis situations. Especially in conflict areas, internally displaced families are further driven into destitution that many marry their daughters off to relatives or other individuals who they feel could better care for them."

“These systems of beliefs are often driven by economic contingencies. Incidents of child marriages increase in areas suffering from persistent poverty, disasters, armed conflict, and other crisis situations. Especially in conflict areas, internally displaced families are further driven into destitution that many marry their daughters off to relatives or other individuals who they feel could better care for them."

From the Start: It Takes A Village

Violence against women along with child and early, forced marriage are issues that Oxfam Pilipinas in partnership with Women’s Rights Organizations – Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF), United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UnyPhil-Women), Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD) – have been working on for years.

The impacts of child, early and forced marriage are stark. It subjects young girls to violations of their right to health, education and safety; an increased likelihood of dropping out of school; a higher risk of complications or death due to childbirth; economic vulnerability and an increased likelihood of domestic violence. Fundamentally, it means the loss of their childhood.

Since 2016, Oxfam Pilipinas has been implementing a program funded by Global Affairs Canada called Creating Spaces. Along with programming in the Philippines, the five-year initiative is also delivering support in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan. Across all countries, Creating Spaces works at changing local norms and laws that perpetuate violence, provides support to women and girls who are survivors of violence, and improves strategies for changing gender norms by strengthening collective efforts and learning.

Due to years of work through the Creating Spaces program and the lobbying and influencing efforts by partners like the PLCPD, who led the initiative of getting the political heft; actions are coming to fruition. In 2019, Sen. Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality and a key Creating Spaces advocate, filed Senate Bill 162 or the ‘Girls Not Brides Act of 2019’.

As a parent of three daughters, Sen. Hontiveros acknowledged her privilege of being able to protect her own children from underage marriage but said she couldn’t pass on the opportunity to work on this issue.

“I cannot simply sit idly by while other children are forced into situations that often lead to a life that deprives them of education, economic prospects, and more crucially, their dignity,” Sen. Hontiveros said. “Many studies have also shown that positive early experiences of children provide a foundation that could anchor them throughout their lifetime. A child marriage, however, is often marred by abuse and trauma, and once we expose our children to this kind of environment, their future is also jeopardized.”

In January 2020, Oxfam joined PLCPD, children’s networks, government agencies, and international and sectoral organizations to discuss various gender-related issues, provide recommendations and re-affirm solid support for the bill. In February 2020, Sen. Hontiveros, along with Senator Leila de Lima, filed a revised version of the bill, which incorporated recommendations by Oxfam to strengthen the participation of women and girls.

Girls are largely underrepresented and invisible in Philippine legislation and policy, and the senator hopes that through this bill, young Filipino girls will know that they are taken seriously.

“This bill is one of the first that says we listen to our girls, we care about their future, and we will protect them. It means that Congress does recognize the rights of young girls to childhood and to make decisions of their own free will in their different life cycles,” Sen. Hontiveros said.

Is one bill enough to be the collective tipping point needed to re-shape the norm?

It will be a start. But a hard right-turn away from an entrenched societal norm will take more time and more action.

“If it prohibits child marriage and dethrones it as a norm to be replaced by that of marriage between consenting adults, it will become a collective tipping point. It may not be enough to change beliefs overnight and in one fell swoop, but it will initiate a process that hopefully will become comprehensive,” Sen. Hontiveros explained.

“We always believe that legislation is necessary but insufficient to dismantle societal beliefs and lead to transformative processes of change. People and communities have to own the legislation; they must be made aware of it and truly understand how the law affects us.”

On March 4, 2020, in timing with International Women’s Day, Sen. Hontiveros delivered a sponsorship speech, which marked the first time the issue of child marriage and how to end it was discussed in a Senate plenary session in the Philippines. Following this speech, two Senate committees jointly recommended the early passage of the bill prohibiting child marriage in the Philippines.

Along with legislative and community support, Sen. Hontiveros and the organizations behind the bill said there must also be strong and effective implementation on the ground.

“There needs to be a collective effort among Local Government Units, government agencies in the Executive, civil society, and other stakeholders and advocates. Any legislation should always be integrated into the culture for shifts in norms to take place,” Sen. Hontiveros said.

On October 9, to commemorate International Day of the Girl Child and drumbeating the urgency of a law that will prohibit child marriage in the country, more than 200 ‘Girl Defenders’ joined an online rally (#GirlDefenders) organized by PLCPD, with support from Oxfam Philippines.

The rally saw lawmakers and campaigners from all over the Philippines wanting the same result – the immediate passage of the laws filed in both houses of Congress prohibiting child marriage. In addition to supporting the bills, the Commission of Bangsamoro Women said they will be pursuing an amendment of the ‘Code of Muslim Personal Laws’, which has been, in large part, used as a basis for enabling child marriage in the country.

“For the first time in history, there are measures filed in Congress that aim to end child marriage. Social movements like the #GirlDefenders alliance play an important role in shaping public policies and have mobilized the citizenry in achieving important policy reforms to end harmful practices ending child marriage,” Rom Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD, said.

On October 12, a historic moment in Philippine history was reached with the bill passing a second reading in the Senate a few weeks before the second regular session of congress closed. The third, and final, reading of the bill in the Senate, where only the title of the bill is read on the floor, was passed on November 9.

“All eyes are now on the House of Representatives. We need to bring this measure to the finish line. Once enacted into law, this landmark legislation will help protect the rights of young girls, defend them from different forms of abuse, and allow them to flourish and live to their fullest potential,” Oxfam Pilipinas Country Director Lot Felizco said after the news broke.

Now the approved bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for the same process. Once it’s passed in the House, it will go to the President who has the power to veto or approve the bill into law.

These legislative milestones matter more now than ever. The economic slump triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to increase violence against women and girls, including child marriage. Partners with Oxfam’s Creating Spaces project from Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao have already reported an increase in child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) in evacuation centers during government-imposed lockdowns amid ongoing armed conflict. While survivors need immediate support services, people also need to know that there is a possible end in sight.

These insights reported by women’s rights organizations in Mindanao are extremely troubling – but not surprising as the risks of child, early and forced marriage are amplified during emergencies and disasters. The Covid-19 crisis and its far-reaching impacts underscore why measures to protect the girl child must be urgently enacted, including the Girls Not Brides bill.

All girls deserve their childhood. It’s about time to end child marriage.

This story was originally published on

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Photo: El Colectivo/Oxfam

New Momentum for Women’s Movements

This year, we launched two new programs as a part of a worldwide initiative by Global Affairs Canada to support local and regional women’s organizations and movements, advance the protection of women’s and girls’ rights and achieve gender equality. In many countries, women’s rights movements have deteriorated to critical levels, with groups facing shrinking spaces in civil society to organize. Many organizations suffer from a lack of capacity, resources and autonomy to drive their own change agendas. Too often, they are missing the chance to collaborate and create collective action because they are focused on delivering their core services. In Guatemala and Pakistan, our new Women’s Voice and Leadership programs want to address these exact problems. The programs aim to strengthen women’s movements and organizations as critical civil society actors.

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Photo: Giorgos Moutafis/Oxfam


In 2019-2020, the world faced the largest level of displacement in 70 years. The impact from both conflict and disaster forced people out of their homes, and in many cases, across borders. Conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen worsened, leaving millions on the brink of famine. Pregnant Yemeni women in particular remain at risk of developing serious complications at birth due to malnourishment. Across these crises, Oxfam responded, and worked with local partners in refugee camps and host communities to provide emergency food, drill wells for clean water and provide sanitation to keep disease away.

With your support, Oxfam provided vital assistance to a number of communities affected by rapid onset emergencies. We supported 788, 168 people affected by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In Bangladesh, we supported Rohingya refugees who have been displaced by conflict with gender transformative programming to increase leadership and confidence within communities.

Thanks to the Government of Canada and you, our generous donors, we were able to save more lives.

Emergency response efforts delivered by Oxfam reached 13.5 million people across the globe. Meanwhile, 12,429 signatures were delivered here in Canada to Foreign Minister Freeland calling for an end to the Saudi Arms Deal.

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Photo: Red Orange/Oxfam


Acute poverty, dowry, divorce, and repaying family debt are some of the reasons that drive women and girls to domestic work in Bangladesh. A whopping 10.5 million domestic workers have been systematically denied legal protection, dignity and decent working conditions.

Alongside local partners, we are supporting women domestic workers to organize together to claim and defend their rights. Together, they are seeking to influence policymakers to recognize domestic work as a formal profession.

This past year, the Securing Rights project supported 479 domestic workers by providing the tools and information for women to find and keep decent work while advocating for their rights. The result? Major campaigns taking to the streets of Dhaka to denounce the discrimination and violence faced by domestic workers. It is through the power of advocacy that women domestic workers are paving the way for decent working conditions.

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Camino Verde

The group of Maya Q’eqchi’ women entrepreneurs with the Ixmukané Association proudly shared their organic, justly produced coffee with Oxfam Canada visitors in November 2019.  Their collective skills and will to grow their budding coffee production business was clear, but the resources to do so were lacking. Camino Verde, Oxfam’s project in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala will support Indigenous women and youth led innovative, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable small businesses development.

Through Camino Verde, Ixmukané’s promising coffee operation will gain not only a valuable injection of seed capital to strengthen their value chain but also the technical training and support for the resourceful Indigenous women leading the business.  Ixmukané is one of up to 60 such Indigenous women and youth led small businesses that Camino Verde will accompany over the course of the next four years.  In a part of Guatemala where Indigenous women and youth led formal economic activity is precarious and where Indigenous peoples have long been treated as second-class citizens, Camino Verde is focused on Indigenous women and youth’s economic empowerment as a vehicle toward greater autonomy and independence.

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Gilda’s Story

“I want my daughter to be a fighter. I don’t want her to live what I lived, or to feel what I felt,” said Gilda Jacinta, a 19-year-old Mozambican activist fighting her sexual health and rights.

At the age of 16, Gilda became pregnant and was abandoned to raise her child alone. However, this did not deter Gilda. Today, she taps into her own experience and works with Oxfam partner NAFEZA to advocate for the rights of young women in her community. Gilda lends her voice to a community radio show to raise awareness about sexual health.

Her Future Her Choice works to create an environment where young women and girls can claim their rights to sexual and reproductive health and have access to appropriate and safe services in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Canada.


    In 2019-2020, you helped us work toward a just and sustainable world where everyone can safely speak truth to power, claim their rights and build a better future for themselves.

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    Together, we tackled inequality and promoted women’s rights around the world.

    It is the collective power of our supporters across Canada that propels our work forward – our Board Chair and Interim Executive Director explain how.

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    Our Approach

    Oxfam Canada is one of 20 organizations worldwide that make up Oxfam International. We work together in more than 90 countries to fight inequality and support people to claim their rights. We believe that ending global poverty begins with women's rights.

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    When disaster strikes or conflict breaks out, we provide emergency aid. Together with communities, we save and rebuild lives after disasters and support the needs of refugees around the world.

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    We support projects that help people assert their rights and build better lives for themselves and for others.

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    We work to change the laws and practices that keep people trapped in poverty and perpetuate inequality.

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    Our Guiding Principles

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    We put women's rights at the centre of everything we do. Whether we're delivering emergency aid to survivors of natural disasters or providing women the tools to escape poverty, women's rights must be emphasized if positive change is to be lasting and sustainable.

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    We challenge the policies, systems and institutions that trap people in poverty in Canada and around the world through advocacy and campaigning.

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    We consult our partners, women's rights organizations and the people we work with to learn from them. And we make sure people’s voices are heard by those who need to act.

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    We gather evidence and share our learning and research with other aid agencies, governments, local organizations and the public to show what works and what needs to change.

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    We work with others to combat poverty at every level. Together with women's rights organizations and partners on the ground, we foster innovative solutions that transform communities for the long term.

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    Poverty is not just about money - it's about systems. We challenge the systems that make people poor-systems of injustice and discrimination based on gender, class, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and expression, ability, citizen status, education and other identities.

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    Reach and scale 2019-2020

    Together, the Oxfam Confederation reached 19.4 million in our programs worldwide in 2019-2020.

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    See how your support changed lives in 2019-2020.

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    Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

    Violence against women and girls is a major cause of death, poor health and disability around the world. It also stops women and girls from escaping poverty. It limits their control over their own bodies. It holds them back from school, from work, from community life. Every woman should be able to live free from violence, regardless of her age, race, social or economic status.

    This year, thanks to advocacy through our Creating Spaces program, the Girls Not Brides Act was put forward in the Philippines to outlaw marriage below the age of 19.

    Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

    Sexual and reproductive health is at the heart of the most important decisions a woman makes: if and when to marry. How long to stay in school. How many children to have. When women can make informed choices about their bodies, they can make better choices for their families, their education, their livelihoods and their happiness.

    This year, we scaled up our Her Future Her choice program and our Sexual Health and Empowerment program reached nearly 13,000 people in the Philippines with awareness and mobilization activities. Thanks to advocacy efforts by Oxfam and allies, the Government of Canada announced an annual commitment of $1.4 billion to global health programming, $700 million per year of which will go to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

    Women’s Economic Justice

    Around the world, women perform the worst work, earn less than men, do more unpaid work and bear the brunt of the widening wealth gap. When a woman is paid a fair and living wage and works in safe and decent working conditions, she has the power to lift herself out of poverty.

    This year, our Securing Rights program provided 479 women domestic workers in Bangladesh with the tools and information to find and keep decent work while advocating for their rights.

    Gender in Emergencies

    Disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and droughts, as well as conflict and war, and the current pandemic, put millions in urgent need of clean water, soap, food and shelter. The crises caused by these events also threaten women's safety and health in unique ways. In emergencies, we meet urgent needs to save lives, but also look at long-term solutions for women's livelihoods, health, safety and leadership.

    Emergency response efforts delivered by Oxfam in 2019-2020 reached 13.5 million people across the globe. Meanwhile, 12,429 signatures were delivered to the Minister of Foreign Affairs here in Canada calling for an end to the Saudi Arms Deal.


    Everywhere on the planet, women are far more likely than men to be poor and powerless. The research is clear: when women exercise their rights, our world is better. It's less poor, more peaceful and more just. It's a better place for everyone. Supporting women to be leaders is the key to ending poverty.

    This year we launched two new programs that provide capacity strengthening and direct financial support to women’s organizations toward this goal.

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    Together, we can end the injustice of poverty and fight inequality.

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