British Bangladeshi Friends of Oxfam Charity Dinner – 5th October 2022, In celebration of 50 years of Oxfam in Bangladesh.
A warm welcome to you all at this Meet the Media event this evening. We appreciate your taking time off from your other engagements to be with us here.
We would like to apprise you about our forthcoming event to be held on Wednesday, 5th October,2022 at the Royal Regency,… (full address). This event, a Charity Dinner, has been organised to celebrate the excellent work that Oxfam has been undertaking since the independence of Bangladesh in that country. The fund raised at the Charity Dinner will be used by Oxfam in various development work that is urgently required. More about that later.
As you are aware, Oxfam, with its headquarters at Oxford, is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. Across regions, from the local to the global, Oxfam works with people to bring change that lasts. This work is grounded in the commitment to the universality of human rights.
One person in three in the world lives in poverty. Oxfam is determined to change that world by mobilising the power of people against poverty.
Around the globe, Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive, thus saving lives and helping rebuild livelihoods when crisis strikes.
Although Oxfam started its journey in Bangladesh in 1970 by projests assisting victims of a deadly cyclone and tidal wave, it played a commendable role during the War of Liberation in 1971 by providing food, shelter and medicine to hundreds of thousands of dis[placed people and their repatriation after the liberation of
Bangladesh. In independent Bangladesh, Oxfam has continued its efforts to help the people of the country through natural disasters and various poverty alleviation and development initiatives with local partners.
Before we delve into some areas of work that Oxfam has undertaken in Bangladesh since 1972, here are a few key points of its work with refugees in 1971.
After the crackdown, Operation Searchlight, in Bangladesh on March 25th, Oxfam’s Assistant Field Director, Alan Leather, was
one of the first foreign NGO staff to visit the border areas in late April/early May to observe the thousands of Bangladeshis
streaming across the border. A few volunteers of Gandhian Ashrams joined Alan in Kolkata to start the work. Julian Francis was entrusted with the administrative responsibilities and everything was under the watchful eye of Raymond Cournoyer, the newly appointed Field Director for Eastern India and East Pakistan. Special/Unique Aspects of Oxfam’s programme
-Supplied one million doses of cholera vaccine within 72 hours with jet injectors (no needles needed!) -Experimental Butyl rubber latrine unit for use in camp with 10 squatting plates. Great success and many supplied including, later, in Bangladesh
-High protein food powder additive made from peanuts from Uttar Pradesh factory financed by Oxfam in Bihar Famine time.
-Huge operation to buy warm clothes and blankets as well as campaign in UK “Take a blanket off your bed and give to Oxfam”.
Postage was not charged by the Post Office. Apart from its relief operations, one of the biggest tasks that was
accomplished by Oxfam in 1971 was the publication of “The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis in Bengal”. This was Oxfam’s effort to shock the world’s leaders into opening their eyes and waking up to the growing tragedy. These were eye-witness accounts of the tragedy, statements and articles written by famous persons, such as Mother Teresa and Senator Edward Kennedy and well-known journalists such as Anthony Mascarenhas, John Pilger, Nicolas Tomalin, Clare Hollingworth and Martin Woollacott. Only a week after it was published in October 1971, Senator Edward Kennedy brought “The Testimony of Sixty” to the attention of the US Senate, and it was published in full on October 28, 1971 in the Congressional Record.
Here are some of the areas of work of Oxfam in independent Bangladesh (this list is by no means exhaustive)
French-Canadian, Raymond Cournoyer, a Brother of the HolyCross Order, who had worked in East Pakistan from 1958-65, was the obvious choice to be Oxfam’s first Field Director in Bangladesh. However, he made some demands of Oxfam UK., emphasising on using funds to support young Bangladeshis with vision.“
£250,000 was allocated to CARE for C.I. sheets for a big village re-housing programme
£ 400,000 for ferries Kamini, Kosturi and Korobi and repair formany others. Particular request by Bangabandhu during meeting with Julianin January 1972 and with Oxfam’s Head of Overseas Aid, Ken Bennett, in March 1972.
Oxfam was first donor to BRAC, now biggest NGO in the world,and Gonoshasthaya Kendra
Grant of approx £ 400,000 also made at Bangabandhu’s request for pilot ‘cluster village programme’ in Noakhali. Summary reads, “Bangladesh Sambaya Union, Noakhali. Assistance with buildingfive cooperative cluster villages, above flood level, grouped around
cyclone shelter, schools, with community centres, houses, wellsand communally farmed land.” From this dream of Bangabandhu,programmes such as Guccha Gram, Adarsha Gram and now ASHRAYAN have been developed.
Over the years since 1972, Oxfam has led the way in a number of ways:-One of the first NGOs to get involved in Gender Development and a staff member founded an NGO, ‘USHA’ in 1995 -Land Reform became and still is a major issue and the NGO
‘Association of Land Reform Development’ (ALRD) grew out of Oxfam and other NGOs’ initiatives and came into being in 1991-Similarly, Oxfam disaster relief and rehabilitation work initiated the‘Disaster Forum’ in 1992, now ‘Foundation for Disaster Forum’-In 1991/92 Oxfam funded UNHCR to care for Rohingya refugees at that time. Oxfam’s expertise in WASH is still in the forefront with the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar today. -Oxfam has supported important disability initiatives such as CRP,in Savar
Over the past five decades Oxfam has been involved in hundreds of projects throughout Bangladesh, some of them will be highlighted by our guest speakers on the night.
We are glad to announce that Julian H Francis, OBE, the chief co-ordinator of Oxfam’s refugee relief operation in 1971, who is also an awardee of ‘Friends of Liberation War’ honour and now a full citizen of Bangladesh, will be the keynote speaker on 5th October,2022.
Her Excellency Syeda Muna Tasneem, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the UK and Ireland will grace us with her attendance as chief guest. We also expect a number of dignitaries to be with us at the Charity Dinner.
The fund raised on the night and any other donation will be utilised by Oxfam, Bangladesh in partnership with local agencies in providing shelter in the aftermath of the recent devastating flood in various districts of Bangladesh, keeping in mind the worst affected areas of Sylhet division.
The tickets have been fixed at £500 (Five Hundred Pounds) for a table for 10 (Ten) persons. British Bangladeshi Friends of Oxfam would be grateful for the support from various quarters of our community for this worthy cause.