The debate on the recent “Oxfam sex scandal” has focused almost exclusively on the offending aid workers and aid organisations while ignoring the voices of the vulnerable young women exploited, writes Giulia Piccolino, a lecturer in politics and international relations at Loughborough University, UK.
More than 1,100 women living and working within the international aid sector in 81 countries have signed an open letter demanding that women be “taken seriously by men and decision makers in humanitarian and development organizations”.
The Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal signals the arrival of the moment for an honest public conversation about charities’ role in society, the white saviour mentality, gender relations, charity accountability, and the impact of western aid and power in developing countries.
Like political campaign contributions, today’s self-interested foreign aid often supports badly-designed development projects, imposes foreign investor-friendly policies on recipient countries, facilitates access to intended beneficiaries’ resources, helps aid-giving countries to look good on the world stage, all the while making unquestioning taxpayers in aid giving countries feel good about their supposed generosity.
The Tax Justice Network’s 2018 Financial Secrecy Index says Canada’s financial system is less transparent than that of notorious tax havens and countries often portrayed as corrupt by the mainstream media, such as China, Russia and Kenya.
Women’s NGOs play crucial roles in development projects in numerous developing countries. A study conducted by Dr. Bipasha Baruah, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Women’s Issues, at Western University, and Dr. Kate Grantham, Research Associate, International Development, at McGill University, found that women NGOs in India and Tanzania “were easily marginalized and trivialized” once the projects they would have initiated got off the ground.