On Wednesday, the newly-founded Oxfam Cambridge University Society (or Oxcam) held a stall on the Sidgwick Site promoting its first campaign, ‘Even it up’.
Its aim is to raise awareness for Oxfam’s latest report on global inequality, which found that just eight of the world’s super-rich own the same amount of wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world. Oxcam represented this with eight students dressed as bankers, standing next to half of a globe made of papier-mâché.
According to the fliers Oxcam distributed, one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. The flier also included a statement from the Executive Director of Oxfam International: “Inequality is trapping millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”
Varsity spoke to the co-founders of the society: its president, Miriam Quinn, and its secretary, Emma Walsh. For them, raising awareness for global inequality in a way that was fun and engaging for students was crucial.
“We want to bring exciting campaigns to the University, and spread Oxfam’s message of ending global poverty and inequality and climate change through fun, creative ways,” Walsh told Varsity. “We’re trying to get people engaged with the campaign, and with Oxfam generally.”
Quinn spoke of the advantages of having such a fresh start: “We’re a brand new society, so we just sat down at the beginning of term and said, ‘Who wants to get involved? We’ve got a completely blank canvas so let’s think as creatively and innovatively as we can.’ There’s lot of stress already in Cambridge, so what we want to do is something a little bit different.”
Oxcam does have a history at Cambridge University, Quinn explained: “At some point, we haven’t quite worked out when, it sort of faded away. But we were determined to bring it back and get it up and running, because we really think Oxfam is such a major and such an important charity that to not have a president of it here in Cambridge seemed like such a shame.”
The Society hold weekly meetings every Sunday. They also have numerous speakers events planned: for instance, on Sunday 12th February, Pushpanath Krishnamurthy, a Global Campaigner from Oxfam India, will attend their meeting. On 27th February there will be an event featuring Dame Barbara Stocking, the president of Murray Edwards and former Chief Executive of Oxfam.
“At that point,” said Quinn, “we’ll be really formally launching our committee, launching elections for an exec, so if people are keen to get involved and drive this forward then it would be great for people to come along to that.”
Walsh spoke to us about the issue of global inequality which the ‘Even it up’ campaign was focusing on: “These people that get more wealth just accumulate more wealth at a ridiculous rate that’s at the detriment to half of the world. Obviously, Bill Gates is one of the eight richest men and he does lots of stuff for charity, so we’re not attacking the richest people, we’re not saying capitalism’s bad or anything like that, it’s just the economy’s not working if there can be that much inequality.”
One of the ways Oxfam is pushing for change, Walsh went on to say, is by “working to try and raise taxes to help the poor, help services, education and healthcare.”
“Oxfam isn’t anti-capitalist, isn’t anti-people-having-money,” said Quinn. “It’s just that when there’s such a stark level of inequality that isn’t working for anyone, that’s not a society where either the richest or the poorest are happy. And happiness is a much fairer measure really of how well a society is doing than purely how much money it has. By evening up inequality we believe we can make a step towards doing that.
“We really encourage anyone and everyone to just turn up to our meetings. We’re not some kind of exclusive, hierarchical society. If you’ve got a passion for getting involved in global issues, and helping to be a small part of a movement that’ll make a change, then you’ve got a place here in this society.”
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