To the world, is Oxfam just a brand? By Caroline Mochoge.

Yearly, the NGO board hosts an event termed the NGO’s week, which aims at typically bringing different non-profit organizations together for engagement and finding solutions to the local challenges. Thanks to the NGO board, the NGOs week offered Oxfam an opportunity to have a booth, which enabled me to learn, interact, experience, and listen to the different voices represented by the different people coming over to the Oxfam booth.

“Hi Oxfam, my passion is in sustainable agriculture, and I buy seedlings for growing different crops. I am keen to understand what you do, I am a farmer and I’m looking for opportunities and spaces where I can nurture my skills to make my farm fertile. I’m sure there’s a program I can plug-in to ensure that I understand how to utilize resources. With better understanding now, I realize I have been confusing Oxfarm with Oxfam; the organization that fights against poverty and inequality.”

“Hi Oxfam, I’m a young person contributing to change through innovation due to unemployment; I thought of using my skills to impact the community positively. Two years ago, my friends and I discovered an issue in one of the religious institutions on misuse of funds, and we sealed the loopholes. To bolster the system, we worked with the institution to create an application that monitors, and tracks used funds. Accountability is a social responsibility that each one of us is entitled to, hence, the reason for your partnership in certain counties would come in handy because we lack valuable information to make better decisions.”

“Hi, Oxfam, thank you for taking the time to listen. I have walked around all the other booths and no one has bothered to listen, let alone understand my concerns. I am also a young person from Marsarbit; I started a community-based organization to support my fellow youth easily lured into criminal activities because they are idle. Now that you have made me, understand your work better, through your support I want to know how best I can partner with other organizations in North Eastern Kenya for networking purposes as well as, better my community.”

“Hi Oxfam, do you cater to the elderly in the community? What projects have you done to ensure we are not left behind? In my locality alone, I have seen the elderly left out in cash transfer activities, public participation, and even the most recent census done last year, the elderly were not counted as citizens. Certain laws fight for the elderly inclusion but, we are left out. My urge would be, although your focus is not majorly on the elderly, that you push policies on our behalf so that we are not forgotten.”

“Hi Oxfam, I’m a mother of three and have been supporting and training domestic workers in my neighborhood on the importance of having a signed contract and creating time for their children. Through our interaction, I now understand you have already done a four-year project on Wezesha Jamii; I would love to use your tools as guidance to train a few domestic workers who are keen to gain knowledge and better their way livelihoods. Keep up the good work. Now that the project is over, don’t forget to fight for more women's spaces so that they are heard because they deserve it.”

“Hi Oxfam, I represent the children and young teen mums in the Urban Informal Settlements. Most of these girls violated, do not have an opportunity to attend school due to different challenges including early marriages. My specialization is in film, and I decided to give back to my community with the support of other team members through; offering training, nurturing talents through arts and creating awareness on crime, early pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, and prostitution. The video you have showcased, speaks volumes especially on the impact you have had on the youth in Mukuru, what’s next for some of us in other areas that would love to be part of the amazing work around artivism?”

“Hi, Oxfam, I represent persons with a disability, at first, I found it hard approaching your table because I wasn’t certain of how you would have perceived me. I am unable to walk; I rely on my crutches, the most amazing part is, you took the time to talk to me and offered alternatives on how best we can be included in budgeting. I am grateful for your patience, keep reminding our elected leaders that we are humans too, and we need organizations like you to influence budgets so that we can access buildings comfortably using the ramps.”

“Hi Oxfam, I represent the minority community in Turkana. My friend and I schooled in Nairobi only to return home and find some of our families have been displaced due to the current mining extraction. I have heard about the good work you are doing on oil, on the other side of my beloved homeland. The mining issue is our biggest concern and we only require access to information and enhanced knowledge, to see how best we can positively influence our leaders to ensure we are not harmed or chased away from the only place we call home.”

As I listened carefully to some of these people that visited our booth at the NGO week, a lot of fundamental questions were on my conscious mind. I wondered how: I can use my communication expertise to gently push for these voices. I also thought through our programmes and what Oxfam Kenya programme can do better, to address the deep-seated issues that were emerging from these people’s stories.

To the world, was Oxfam just a brand? With all the years of experience in evidence-based campaigns and humanitarian work, Oxfam Kenya has created a meaningful impact on other lives, however, it is evident through constructive feedback that most of the people barely understand our main goal.

What were we not doing right? Could we do it all? What was our role in partnering with these individuals to realize the transformative change they were all yearning and working towards? As I continued pondering over these conversations, it struck me that these conversations sum up to one thing Inequality!

Inequality cuts deep into our society and systems meaning more needs to be done to ensure we fight inequality and poverty by 2030. As Oxfam, we have been at the forefront of calling out Inequality globally, and in Kenya – we believe extreme inequality is not inevitable or accidental. It is the result of deliberate political and economic choices, and it can be reversed.

For four years now, Oxfam in Kenya has been using strategic influencing and working with unusual partners as well, to push for policies through the different thematic areas. Oxfam’s brand has been linked to being famous as well as, a respected as an International Organisation. However, in Kenya, most people don’t know the kind of work we do both globally and nationally, it's only a few who work within the NGO sector that have a rough idea of what our areas of specialization.

Through the different thematic areas, Oxfam Kenya has been striving to ensure; citizens hold the local government to account through different avenues, on tax utilization for quality services. Additionally, creating spaces for women to be economically empowered as well as, nurtured to take up leadership spaces, building the capacity of local organizations for sustainability and ownership of projects as well as, create innovative water systems, that promote quality water services within the community and lastly, creating awareness for local communities to understand their rights on communal land.

In conclusion, for Oxfam to be recognized not only as a trusted brand, but there’s also a need for more awareness creation on the kind of work we plan to indulge in for the years to come and strengthen the established footprint in Kenya for better interaction with potential partners/donors. I believe there is still room for Oxfam Kenya, to fight against inequality through strengthened partnerships and strategic influencing, in the different spaces and continue impacting other people’s lives.