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Oxfam to spearhead women’s week on campus

Next week, from Monday, March 3 to Saturday, March 8, Grinnell’s student Oxfam America chapter will be hosting a week of awareness entitled “International Women’s Week: Women and Water.”

Oxfam is an international aid development organization that works using a rights-based approach to stop injustice that creates hunger, poverty and violence worldwide. The Grinnell chapter focuses on the Grow Mission, which fights for food security.

The week will focus on raising student awareness through tabling and an all-day activism workshop on Saturday. To do this, Oxfam will collaborate with three other student groups: the Grinnell Latin American Solidarity Society (GLASS), IOWATER and the African and Caribbean Student Union.

The group will also recognize community leaders who have exemplified Oxfam’s values in the Grinnell community.

Group leaders Moses Gaither-Ganim ’16 and Leah Lucas ’14 are passionate about Oxfam’s efforts to enact positive change worldwide, especially with regards to the changing climate.

“I think climate change is … the biggest issue in the way of helping people in impoverished countries get out of poverty,” Gaither-Ganim said. “Because when the climate is erratic and natural disasters happen, they get hit the hardest and there’s the least they can do to help themselves out of poverty.”

International Women’s Day will be another focus of next week’s awareness efforts, due to its central importance to Oxfam’s mission.

“Women are a key element and a key player in development worldwide,” Lucas said. “If you empower [women] you oftentimes empower communities. If you educate women, you educate the community. So, Oxfam really believes strongly in that, and supports women leaders and women entrepreneurs.”

The Grinnell group decided to theme their Women’s Week around global issues surrounding water.

“We really wanted to make the focus very global and about water because I think it’s really an increasingly important issue, as we’re running out of available fresh water for us to use,” Gaither-Ganim said. “It’s a problem that we’re all going to have to confront very soon. We should hopefully really change peoples’ perspectives because I think there’s a lot of shocking information that people don’t know about water insecurity and how big of an issue it is.”

The group hopes that the coming awareness week will help fully engage the campus with this issue.

Oxfam will also be presenting awards to community members who have embraced Oxfam’s mission and helped the local community. Award recipients include Rachel Porath, the director of local food bank Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. and Linda Cranston who is being honored for her work with the Food Recovery Network and Bread for the World.

Oxfam’s efforts next week will be carried out in collaboration with GLASS, a group which was recently formed after members of the Student Organization of Latinas/os (SOL) returned from a trip to Guatemala, where they looked at many issues connected to those being addressed by Oxfam.

Amy Flores ’15, a GLASS member, is glad that the groups are collaborating to bring more activism to campus. The week will culminate on Saturday, March 8 with a chance for students to learn more about activist student groups on campus and how they can get involved.

“A lot of groups on campus want to do the same kind of activism … and go to protests in different places,” Flores said. “So even though their ideologies might be different … there are people on campus that want to be active and want to physically go and show their solidarity. So we’re joining it together … and we’re presenting all the different ideas that people have.”

These student groups will be sharing information throughout the week in the JRC lobby, focusing on different events each day. On Monday, the group will focus on “Flooding in Bolivia,” Tuesday: “Mining in Guatemala,” Wednesday: “Droughts in Africa,” Thursday: “Women and Water Scarcity,” Friday: “Stand in Solidarity ‘Take a stand, Paint a Hand.’” On Saturday, in addition to the activist group information presentations, GLASS will present a series of photos showcasing their trip in the JRC lobby and a documentary “Sisters on the Planet” on women and development issues will be screening in the afternoon.

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