Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima responds to Haiti and Chad reports

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima Portraits

This is shocking. This is appalling. It hurts me very deeply. A few privileged men who had the opportunity to serve Oxfam were abusing the very people they were meant to protect.

They let down our organization. They betrayed the trust of our supporters. They betrayed the trust of the governments that allow us to come in to respond and support their people. It is painful. It is unacceptable behavior. It is an appalling mark against the high standard that Oxfam sets for itself. Advancing women’s rights in situations of high vulnerability such as crisis contexts is at the core of what we do. It is in fact some of the best work we do.

Our priority now is to stand alongside the women who were abused, and it is to root out sexual misconduct from our organization and we are working on that. Since Haiti, we put in place a dedicated safeguarding team, we put in place a confidential whistleblower mechanism, and tightened up some of our policies.

The investigation in 2011 would not pass the standards that we have today. However, that’s not to say that we are where we should be. We still have to build the culture that does not tolerate at all sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and abuse. We still have to improve our investigations to make them swift and just. We have to improve the way we care for the survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse.

We are committed to working with our peers because we need to do some of these things with other international NGOs if we are to make our people, the people we work with safe. Such as vetting and recruiting the right people in our organizations who share our values. Such as making sure offenders do not move on to continue offending in other organizations.

also know that to change the culture of our organization will take leadership. And that’s something that we’ve been working on at Oxfam. Of our 22 executive directors today, 15 are women. That is our most senior level. And at the regional level too, I’ve recruited five out of the seven regional directors are women. This is one way of making sure that women’s rights are given the highest priority in our organization.

I say this on behalf of all my colleagues in Oxfam. That we are committed to our work and our values and to Oxfam’s values. We will be honest, transparent, and accountable in addressing sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. I hope we can restore the trust of our supporters, of our donors, of our staff, and all the people who believe in Oxfam’s mission. Thank you.

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