Oxfam sings of and censures a scandal of willful neglect

August 6, 2008 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

by Mark Fried

DENIED! screamed the headline on the media advisory I and Oscar Alarcón were handing around the press room this morning to drum up interest in the Oxfam news conference scheduled for noon. Oscar works for Rostros y Voces (Faces and Voices) a Mexican agency which is in the process of joining Oxfam International.

“It works,” the advisory continued. “Women want it. It is the only primary prevention method for women in existence. Yet 15 years after coming on to the market, it is largely unavailable and too expensive for most women to buy.”

Have you guessed what “it” is? To make sure the journalists got it, we handed them one in a soft little plastic package about twice the size of the condoms that are ubiquitous here at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City: a female condom, the simple device that could save the lives of millions. The failure of rich country donors and UN agencies to promote the female condom is the “scandal of willful neglect” we denounced today.

Just before the actual news conference began, a dozen participants from the Oxfam International Youth Project gathered outside the media centre, along with Oxfam staff and the exciting AIDS education group Dance for Life. With the sort of panache only Oxfam youth can bring, they performed what will undoubtedly hit the top forty at this conference: “Give Female Condoms a Chance,” to the tune of that John Lennon favourite. The cameras loved it.

On the dais Mary Robinson, Honorary President of Oxfam International and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, eloquently denounced this “scandal born of ignorance and intertia.” Farah Karimi, executive director of Oxfam Novib, too made a powerful plea for “the only method that women have to protect themselves.”

But best of all was Gladys Chiwome, from Women and AIDS Support Network in Zimbabwe. Gladys knows what female condoms mean to poor women: the difference between life and death.

No doubt a good campaign day here in Mexico for the entire Oxfam team.

You can read all about it in the new Oxfam report, “Failing Women, Withholding Protection: 15 years lost in making the female condom available”.

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Entry filed under: 17th International AIDS Conference, Health and Education For All. Tags: , , .

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