Oxfam India works to address root causes of absolute poverty and inequality. We see poverty as a problem of power, rather powerlessness, in which people are deprived of opportunities, choices, resources, essential services, knowledge and protection. In this sense, poverty is something more than mere lack of income, health and education. It is also people's frustration about any control in deciding the destiny of their lives, their exclusion from decision-making. While the Universal Declaration of Human rights is the guiding framework under which Oxfam India functions, it also derives its mandate from the constitutional rights promised to every citizen of the country.
Persistent poverty and inequality is not just a violation of basic human rights of the people but it also undermines economic growth of a nation by wasting talents and human resources. It leads to a skewed society where power and decision-making remains in the hands of the few leading to greater conflicts and undermining of social cohesion in the end.
Oxfam seeks to address this through a Rights Based Approach where people are seen as the bearers of civil, political and social and economic rights. At the same time, institutions - both state and non-state institutions -- are seen as duty bearers to guarantee and provide those rights to the people. It is also important to underline that without augmenting people's ability to exercise them, the rights would be meaningless.
Hence we work to bring change in people's lives by aiming for wider structural changes that include:
- Greater state and institutional accountability
- Effective participation of people and civil society organizations in decisions affecting their lives through articulation of their demands and rights and public and private institutions meet their responsibilities;
- Increased power and influence of poor and marginalized people over distribution and use of public resources and assets;
- Increased social inclusion of the poor and most marginalized; changes in ideas and beliefs to inform equitable development strategies.
All of Oxfam's work is framed by our commitment to five broad rights-based aims:
- The right to a sustainable livelihood,
- The right to basic social services,
- The right to life and security,
- The right to be heard and the right to an identity.
Oxfam India focuses on four change goals:
More women and men will realize their right to secure and sustainable livelihoods.
Many more women will gain power over their lives and live free from violence through changes in attitudes, ideas and beliefs about gender relations, and through increased level of women's active engagement and critical leadership in institutions, decision-making and change processes.
People living in poverty especially women and girls will realize their rights to accessible and affordable health, education, water and sanitation.
All women and men in humanitarian cries will be assured both the protection and the assistance they require, regardless of who or where they are or how they are affected, in a manner consistent with their human rights.
While not necessarily connected with each other, the four themes – urban poverty, India and the world, youth and active citizenship, communalism and peace building, reflect the changing dynamics of development in and outside India. Unless we begin to build critical work around the same, our regular development work organised around four key themes would remain incomplete.