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Oxfam club at IU responds to Oxfam UK scandal


Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence at Oxfam House on May 17, 2016, in Oxford, England.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

IU's Oxfam club responded on their Facebook page Tuesday to a recent scandal involving allegations of sexual misconduct against staff at Oxfam UK.

Oxfam International is a global organization with subordinate organizations working in more than 90 countries with the goal of ending poverty. There are groups officially connected to the organization at high schools and colleges in 41 states, including three clubs in Indiana.

Over the past week, Oxfam has been addressing allegations that in 2011, Oxfam staff in Haiti were involved in soliciting prostitutes during the relief effort in after the nation's 2010 earthquake.

“We are deeply disappointed to hear of the recent developments regarding the humanitarian response of Oxfam UK,” Oxfam Club at IU’s Facebook post read. “Their actions run contrary to the core values of Oxfam IU.”

The University club’s president, junior Zahra Bhoy, said news of the scandal broke just as Oxfam IU prepared for its weekly board meeting Monday.

Bhoy said the misconduct allegations are especially disappointing since Oxfam is meant to be an aid organization.

“Obviously we don’t have anything to do with the scandal,” she said, “But our name is associated with the bigger organization, so I think it was important to formally have a statement.”

The club didn’t talk about distancing itself from the greater Oxfam organization, Bhoy said, because they are directly affiliated with Oxfam America, not Oxfam UK.

Freshman Alli McCarthy, director of rights and resources for Oxfam IU, was the first to bring the scandal to the club’s attention Monday.

She said the club has been planning an event focused on sex trafficking and violence against women for about a month. They are now rethinking how to conduct the event respectfully in the wake of these allegations.

“The aim of our club, Oxfam IU, is about engaging in these conversations,” McCarthy said. “We really believe we shouldn’t stop that just because the conversation might turn to us.”

The event is still scheduled to take place, and they will address the allegations when it does, McCarthy said. 

Oxfam IU’s response is one of many in this week’s flurry of apologies and promises to improve from all branches of the organization.

According to a Feb. 9 press release from Oxfam UK, four staff members were dismissed after an internal investigation into the allegations. Three more resigned before the investigation could finish.

Deputy Chief Executive of Oxfam Great Britain Penny Lawrence also resigned Monday in light of the investigation.

The organization announced Friday it will publish its own investigation into the Haiti accusations publicly.

“That the event took place seven years ago and involved a small number of staff is no cause for complacency,” Oxfam America said in a Feb. 10 press release. “This is not the first story of sexual misconduct Oxfam has faced in recent months.”

Oxfam also faces allegations that its staff invited prostitutes to its team house in Chad in 2006.

Oxfam America president Abby Maxman also released a statement.

"Globally and at Oxfam America, we continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form and we offer our support to victims of these egregious violations of our principles, values, and what we hold dear and believe," she wrote in a blog post.

The organization has released an action plan of how it will stop abuses like these. The plan includes reviewing its past work, increasing transparency and reforming vetting processes of its staff.

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