Sexual harassment and assault

Haiti sexual misconduct lessons learned, Oxfam remains committed to women’s rights and gender justice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 10:39pm

I write in response to the letter from Neville Lai (“Oxfam Haiti sex scandal arose from arrogance, but cuts to funding are not the answer”, April 4).

It reasserts the importance of examining what we are doing right, and what we can do better by learning vital lessons from past mistakes.

I joined Oxfam because I passionately shared its rights-based approach to tackle poverty and its mission to fight against gender, and other, injustices. It was painful to learn that some women were abused by some of our staff, even though these staff were a few black sheep.

Oxfam has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse. We recognise the Haiti sex abuse scandal of Oxfam Great Britain as a crisis, and also as an opportunity to make a strong and unequivocal commitment to improving our internal culture and the way we operate in the world.

There is an urgent need to address existing power imbalances within the Oxfam confederation, and to commit to a process of genuine transformation, in order to rebuild trust internally and externally, and to ensure our credibility and impact through our work.

Oxfam chief Mark Goldring apologises to UK lawmakers over abuse of Haiti earthquake victims

An Independent Commission co-chaired by Zainab Bangura, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, and Katherine Sierra, a former vice-president of the World Bank, has been set up to review Oxfam’s past sexual misconduct cases, and recommend better initiatives in accountability and culture change. We are also implementing other measures to stamp out abuse such as strengthening our whistle-blowing processes.

We have been working for decades to empower women in fighting against discrimination; most crucially, Oxfam always works for policies that work for women and other marginalised people.

We won’t stop until we see a world without poverty and injustices where all people can live in a decent and sustainable environment.

We are actively listening to our staff, partners, supporters and the communities that we work with.

Transparency is key to facilitate public scrutiny. I am confident that the discussions in past months on saying “no” to sexual abuse against women, and the need to be ever more vigilant against violations in humanitarian relief crisis situations, have moved us all forward.

At long last, we are seeing meaningful cultural change, which I find gratifying.

Trini Leung, director general, Oxfam Hong Kong