This week has been action-packed for Oxfam Canada! In addition to preparing the ground work for this weekend’s Gender Justice Summit, Oxfam, campus and youth leaders have been participating in Oxfam Canada’s National CHANGE Summit in Ottawa. The CHANGE Summit brings together individuals from over 20 university campuses to develop their knowledge and skills, engage on gender justice and other global issues and learn how they can take a leadership role in Oxfam campus groups.
Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, opened the summit with an introduction that focused on the power of collective action, Oxfam’s direction, and where campus groups fit in. Setting the context for the Gender Justice Summit, Robert inspired all of us with stories about his experiences in the field, dealing with situations of poverty, and promoting self-empowerment and gender equality in communities.
Recognizing the assets of individuals in a community makes it possible to help people claim their rights and allow them to be heard. As Robert Fox put it: “Too often there is the assumption that there is someone with the answers (to problems in this world), and that this someone is the other.” By mapping community capacity we can recognize and harness assets for change. This is part of Oxfam Canada’s rights-based approach to poverty reduction and gender justice.
Mobilizing People’s Power to Make Change
There is a sense of commitment and urgency at the CHANGE Summit. One of the principle goals of the Summit is to identify, unlock, and mobilise people’s power to make changes for themselves. One of the most important things to do is to acknowledge power, to name it and to analyse it in order to see how we can shift it. During this week’s Summit, young people will bring forward different perspectives on how to do this.
Our Champions for Change, 10 student leaders selected from across the country, are facilitating workshops at the summit. Some of the issues being discussed are the abuse of power and how those with little authority can be empowered.
A key issue identified in the workshops is that women’s contributions to poverty reduction and gender equality are frequently implicit – not named or recognized – and often taken for granted. A deeper understanding is essential. As one participant noted, “Most development creates more work for women, but it doesn’t create more power for women.”
Using the Assets Based Community Driven (ABCD) approach, Summit participants are mapping physical, financial, human, and social assets to have a starting point to identify solutions that lead to greater gender equality. By doing this, we try to make the “implicit” explicit. By making the hidden dynamics of power explicit, we give a voice to issues that often go unrecognized and this becomes a tool for empowering people.
By combining our different assets, such as technology, social networks, democratic systems, we can have an impact on many levels. ABCD is a rights-based approach that enables citizens to mobilize themselves.
Becca Wilgosh, Tara Alagheband and Talisa Devriesere contributed to this blog.