Stopping Inequalities: My Experience at Oxfam
by RomyLeclerc on May 8, 2016 - 7:51pm
Inequalities have always been a major part of our modern society. We all know that some people own more than others. Recently, a report came out revealing that 62 people own the same as half the population worldwide. This report was written by an organization named Oxfam.
Oxfam is an international confederation working in more than 90 countries to stop inequalities. Each year, they reveal a report with several analyses on world disparities. On January 18th, Oxfam informed us that the gap between wealthy and poor people increased from 38%, comparing to last year's numbers.
Indeed, according to the article “Extreme inequality is expensive and destructive. But there is something we can do about it on a global scale” by Alanna Shaikh on May 6th 2016 on the website Undispatch, inequalities are destroying everything in the world; from the climate to the global economy. The wealthiest people are using the poorest part of the world to get richer. This situation “is essentially caused by a global refusal to change economic business”. People are not aware enough about economic injustices and this is why the situation has not changed so far.
So, Oxfam aims to inform the population about the existence of this reality. This year, Oxfam focuses on tax havens: they try to teach people that these may be legal but they are in fact one of the most important reasons why disparities still exist today.
According to Oxfam, a tax haven is a particular country that offers to outsiders “no tax liability”. This popular technique used by a majority of the wealthiest people in the world is in fact taking away wealth from countries. Indeed, country’s government is not receiving money, usually collected from taxes, and is not able to help its own population in need. Therefore, tax havens are a subject matter that we have to care about.
Because this part of our society troubles me, I wanted to do something. I decided to join in the organization and do something to stop inequalities.
Oxfam-Quebec has what they call the “Escouade Bénévole” which is a group of young people meeting once a month to talk about the annual thematic. I decided to join in. We have met on Tuesday April 5th in their office situated in Montreal. A really nice woman came to talk about her trips in South America as an activist from Oxfam. She went to Colombia, to Guatemala and to the Honduras to help local communities growing their own economy. She explained that in those countries, disparities are blatant. She saw very poor people and, on the other hand, some having too much money for what is humanly possible to spend. Her speech has giving us a human face to the numbers we usually see in the news.
The Panama Papers
Then, we have talked about the scandal that just came out: The Panama Papers. Those papers have raised many questions about possible corruption within the world economic sphere. Throughout the discussion, we have talked about the importance of this discovery for our own campaign. Indeed, this news was all over the media for over two days and a good part of the population learned the risks tax havens are creating. They learned that they exist and that much more people than we think are using them to avoid paying taxes from their own country.
Indeed, according to the article from The New York Times “The Panama Papers: Here’s What We Know” published on April 4th 2016, those papers have exposed how many of the wealthiest people in the world have used “offshore bank accounts and shell companies” to protect their own wealth. From the hundreds names cited in those papers, we can find Prime Minister David Cameron’s father, President Vladimir V. Putin’s associated, soccer player Lionel Messi and Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.
So, we have decided to take this scandal to take Oxfam’s campaign forward.
At the moment of the meeting, Oxfam was preparing its most important annual event: The Marche Monde. This big event took place on May 6th in the Jeanne-Mance Park. It welcomed more than 4, 000 students from schools from the region of Montreal. This Marche encourages youth to learn more about economic disparities and to claim their aberration to the world governments and their support to the world communities.
I decided to join in this impressive event. I was in the animation team. My job was to be in the car within the procession and chant slogans as well as read texts in order to sensitize people present about inequalities around the world.
I arrived at the park at 9:30 AM and yet more than fifteen school buses were waiting at the edge of the lawn. A lot of students came out and headed to the scene on which was performing a music group playing drums.
Just beside the scene, we could find a scarlet city bus. At the bottom of the right side of the bus, we can see a long streamer claiming that “62 people own the same as half the world”. At the top of the bus, five volunteers wearing stunning masks are waving their hands at the people underneath them. They represent the 62 wealthiest people and us, the half poorest part of the population. In front of the bus, we can see a little sign saying “Direction: Panama City”. It is a clear reference to the Panama Papers. The palms surrounding the wealthy people also bring back the thematic of tax havens.
At 10:00 AM, all the animators in car gathered behind the scene. The manager explained to us what we had to do throughout the Marche. She gave us 5 texts to read and 9 slogans to chant. One text was about equality, two about the Marche itself, one about access to water in Burkina Faso and one asking for a minute of silence in honor of people less fortunate than us.
In addition of reading texts, I was also at the music control. In the car, I had a microphone and a Mp3 player I could play music with and, at the trunk of the car, there were two big speakers which were projecting sound into the crowd.
At 10:45 AM, we start marching onto the streets downtown Montreal. I chanted my slogans and people around my car joined me. When I was not reading nor yelling anything, I was putting music and dancing on my seat. The atmosphere was amazing. Everybody was smiling and dancing. They were all there to have a good time.
It was actually my first time as a volunteer in the Marche; however, it is not going to be my last. From the beginning until the end, everything was planned and entertaining.
I loved every second of the experience. What I liked the most is certainly the feeling I had when I finished my day: a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. I just knew I had done something to end the inequalities, even if it was not a big deal. It motivated me to pursue other opportunities to fight inequalities. Because of the Marche, more people are aware of these aberrant inequalities and therefore more people will change their perspective on their daily life. Just that, it is amazing.
If like me, after watching any news program, you want to do something to change the actual world situation, I invite you from the bottom of my heart to take part in any organization of your region! All organizations will be more than glad to welcome you into their team!
A simple thing you can do is to simply sign their petition on tax havens! To do so, you just have to click here.
If you want to learn more about the subject matter, here are links to some of my older posts on inequalities:
Here are some of the slogans I chanted and a part of the first text I read: