'It is a fantastic privilege to understand the depths of another country like Bangladesh'
The first woman director of Oxfam, Barbara Stocking also a philanthropist, believes that the most rewarding part of her entire career is to engage herself in communities 'it is a fantastic privilege to understand the depths of another country like Bangladesh' in an exclusive interview, Barbara shared her views on international development and how far Bangladesh has gone. Zahid Al Amin, on behalf of Law Desk, talks with Barbara.
Dame Barbara Mary Stocking joined Oxfam GB in 2001 and will retire in 2013 after successfully leading Oxfam's response to humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, South Asian tsunami, Bangladesh cyclones and Pakistan earthquake. Asking about her objectives for visiting Bangladesh for the second time she said, “I wanted to come to Bangladesh because Bangladesh is next to the small island states, the most affected country caused by the rich countries and see what Oxfam is doing to ensure justice for the victims of climate change. I had been here ten years ago and we were already working on disaster risk reduction but at that time had no thought of how bad climate change was going to hit Bangladesh so I wanted to come see for myself.” Here are the gist of some more conversation with Barbara Stocking:
Law Desk(LD): How do you view women's contribution in the process of development?
Barbara Stocking (BS): Discrimination and injustice are major causes of poverty worldwide. Women participation in decision making along with men is very significant. You're more likely to be poor if you're a woman and as a woman according to research you're likely to be doing most of the work. However, this discrimination does not start there it actually starts much earlier. Girls too often denied access to education, health and nutrition from birth. This has to change. The right to gender equality underpins all Oxfam's work across the world.
LD: How does Oxfam work to end discrimination against women?
BS: Bangladesh government has made progress in proliferation of women education. But more improvement in this sector is required. Oxfam is making its contribution, here in Bangladesh, to reduce the social acceptance of violence against women, through the 'WE CAN' campaign. Government and non-government organizations need to work together in future to uphold women rights, which is pre requisite, for development.
LD: What will you say about the changes in Bangladesh that have taken place between your two visits to Bangladesh a decade apart?
BS: Ever-worsening traffic jam in Dhaka is a challenge. However, Bangladesh has made tremendous improvement in disaster management strategies. In 199l, lot of people were killed by cyclone due to lack of proper preparedness in rescue and rehabilitation initiatives but now with increased awareness and improved management system, situation has improved significantly. Passing of the Disaster Management Act in recent time is a good initiative. This was the outcome of more than two years of joint advocacy efforts, where Oxfam had also played a significant role. As an Oxfam agenda, we hope to move forward the case of Bangladesh and other countries vulnerable to climate change issues from Copenhagen Conference to other world bodies. Oxfam would continue working for the poor and vulnerable people in Bangladesh.
LD: Would you please comment on the Bangladesh's achievement over four decades since its liberation?
BS: At first, I want to thank Bangladesh government for recognizing Oxfam the 'Friend of Liberation War'. Bangladesh is still facing challenges mainly for climate change consequences. We know 30 million people at least are going to move out of coastal areas because of climate change. For me facing up to that issue and thinking how it to handle is really the biggest issue for Bangladesh and we must stand alongside Bangladesh in the international world to try to do something about this.
LD: What about achieving Millennium Development Goal?
BS: I think Bangladesh is on track to achieve some of the MDGs but there are still some issues, which need more attention. Oxfam will incessantly support Bangladesh to the attainment of the MDGs.
LD: You're concluding words…
BS: I express my hope that I would be visiting Bangladesh again in the future and work for the betterment of the underprivileged and marginalized people.
The interviewer is a freelance journalist.