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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

Onyema Afulukwe

Onyema Afulukwe

by Oxfam | May 17, 2010

I am a member of the Nigerian and New York Bar Associations with law degrees from the University of Nigeria, London School of Economics, and University of Toronto where I was a Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health Scholar. I have volunteered in various organizations dealing with the rights of women, especially women in developing countries. I am particularly interested in research, advocacy and litigation on women’s rights and continue to work on human rights and humanitarian law issues that impact women.

I have followed Oxfam’s activities over the years and the organization’s commitment to working towards reducing poverty and entrenching social justice in many parts of the developing world. I always hoped to contribute in some way if the opportunity came along. As a result, when I had the opportunity to do a human rights internship while I was studying for an LL.M at the University of Toronto, I applied to work with Oxfam Canada. I was particularly excited that the decision to prioritize women’s rights in the organization’s work coincided with my internship period.

I worked with Oxfam Canada as an intern from June to September in 2007. During this period, I initiated and maintained contact with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in London, England to establish collaboration between them and Oxfam Canada towards future publication of Country HIV/AIDS Prevention Report Cards.

I started the preliminary formatting of a model and template for the development of a HIV/AIDS report card on Canada that will grade the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and education programs designed around the disease in Canada. This was released at the Aug. 3-8, 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico.

I researched and analyzed Canada’s national and federal policies on HIV/AIDS to determine the effectiveness of its implementation, while initiating and maintaining contact with Public Health Canada and other relevant government departments in this regard.

I researched the link between ongoing violations of human rights guarantees, especially the human rights of women, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Canada in order to develop an advocacy platform’ and key campaign asks’ for Oxfam and the Blueprint for Action on Women and HIV/AIDS coalition.

Being able to learn some important skills required for advocating for and advancing social justice has been my most rewarding experience. Furthermore, I am happy that the legal analysis and documentary review work I did could improve the lives of many Canadian women, especially those who are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS by reason of their social status, immigration status, and other relevant factors. I also hope it would impact the lives of women in the developing world.

Through my involvement with Oxfam I gained more knowledge about the inner workings of international NGOs and the significance of forming partnerships and building alliances with other national and international NGOs. I learned how to engage with other NGOs and with government officials in order to gain necessary information, and was able to build up more expertise around the human rights issues I worked on.

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