OXFAMCloseup, Spring 2014

In the Cambodia and Guatemala the power of rights.

At Oxfam, we call ourselves a rights-based organization. But what exactly does that mean? And what does it have to do with fighting poverty?

Everything. Equipped with their rights, people have the power to help themselves.

In this edition of Closeup, you’ll read about indigenous people in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province who, for thousands of years, have enjoyed the bounty from land they hold in common. They fish, hunt, forage, and farm on it, ensuring their families will have both food and income. But there is now enormous pressure on those families to claim title to a small area of their common land, and then sell it to developers who are hungry to establish rubber plantations and gold mines. In the end—when their money from the sale is gone—Ratanakiri’s indigenous people are left with nothing. Poverty replaces their rights to that communal property. 

But when villagers have knowledge of those rights and unite to defend them, they are more likely to create a stronger future for their families. Oxfam, working through local organizations, is helping Ratanakiri’s indigenous people do just that. 

In Guatemala, one of our key areas of concern is the violence and limited opportunities women endure in a culture of entrenched sexism and discrimination. There, too, access to their rights is critical to women’s ability to change that culture, to stand up and say “no more.” 

“We have the same rights as men,” says Delfina Cot, a local leader who received training from one of Oxfam’s partners working on violence prevention. “We don’t have to remain silent.” 

Speaking out takes nerve, conviction, and hope. But when people exercise that right, battling the poverty that’s rooted in injustice is more likely to succeed. Our job here at Oxfam—the job we need you to help us do—is to support the fundamental rights of people striving to make their lives better.

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OXFAMCloseup magazine

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