On Monday, along with a group of young, motivated campaign volunteers, I went to Parliament Hill to raise awareness about the increasing phenomena of land grabs and the global rush for land. This stunt was part of Oxfam’s GROW Week—a week of solutions and actions about how to create a world where everyone has enough to eat always.
As we arrived at the campaigns meeting point, I was struck by a surprise—there were bulldozers! Our group was convening to stage a symbolic land grab to get the city’s attention. What better prop could a land grabs campaigner ask for than a real, live bulldozer?
A group of 15 had convened to collect signatures for Oxfam’s global petition, calling on the World Bank to institute a six month freeze on all land related investment. With a freeze in place, this would give the World Bank time to set much needed policies in place to ensure these land deals don’t go wrong, and turn into land grabs.
Our investors and protestors put their costumes on and prepared to mark our territory despite the treacherous winds. As our signs (and hair!) flopped around, one of the bulldozer drivers came over to offer help. After 5 minutes of chatting we had our first petition signature and an unconditional invitation to photograph our signs with the bulldozer. Signature and success number one! Now, on to downtown Ottawa…
While swimming through the crowd of city lunch goers, with my petition board in hand, someone stopped me. This person recognized my Oxfam t-shirt and stopped to tell me that he was a Shareplan donor, and had been for 15 years. He wanted to let me know that he was glad to see us out on the streets. “This is why I support Oxfam,” he said, “because we need to keep taking action. There is change that needs to happen.” We were standing at a crosswalk and all too soon the light changed, forcing the friendly stranger to walk away before I could catch his name.
As our campaigns team continued our petitioning adventure, I swelled with pride – for the people who share their time to take to the streets with us, for the silent supporters who are the financial backbone of what Oxfam is able to do around the world, and for the citizens willing to engage in this immensely important conversation.
As we move forward in the campaign to stop land grabs I hope that more people take action, that more people see the importance of financing Oxfam and our partners’s work, and that more people take the same pride as I can in being a part of this movement and pushing this conversation forward.
– Kelly Bowden is Oxfam Canada’s Youth and Campus Outreach Coordinator.