Drawing hundreds of walkers from India and abroad, the Oxfam Trailwalk kicks off on the 25th of January. EXEC talks to Nisha Agarwal, CEO, Oxfam India about what it means to take an arduous, albeit scenic, stroll in the name charity.
One hundred kilometers. Forty eight hours. And over a hundred four member teams competing for charity. That is the essence of the Oxfam Trailwalk. Started in 1981, in Hong Kong, the event has grown significantly, and as of 2013, features 15 trails in 11 countries.
Oxfam itself, has a remarkable history.In 1942 a group of British citizens got together in Oxford to discuss what they could do to help alleviate the Great Famine in Greece. And that is where the name stems from, for Oxfam was first know as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Today that group of concerned souls has metamorphosed into a global organization that aids the poor as well as victims of social injustice and maintains a well-connected presence in over 12 countries.
Along similar lines, Oxfam made its first foray into India during the Bihar famine of 1951. Today, the organization works with multiple organizations across India to help attain their overarching vision – ‘the right to life with dignity for all’.
The Trailwalk is often thought of as an enduring symbol of how communities and people from different walks of life get together to try and reduce the amount of suffering in this world. According to Oxfam, the walk has enabled over 22,000 people to collectively cover a distance of over 2.2 million kilometers. To find out more, EXEC spoke with Nisha Agarwal, CEO, Oxfam India about what the Trailwalk was all about.
Tell us a little about Oxfam Trailwalk.
Well, Oxfam has been in India for over 60 years now but Oxfam India has been a fully independent entity for over 4 years now. This is the second time we’ll be bringing the Trailwalk to Karnataka. The idea is to raise as much funding as possible to aid NGOs and charitable programs working in our four target areas.
And those target areas are?
Broadly speaking they fall under gender rights, economic justice, disaster response and essential services. We work with several grass roots movements and NGOs as well as lobbyists who work towards improving social conditions in the country by petitioning law-makers and the government.
And how does the Trailwalk help raise funds?
The Trailwalk is open to both corporate and independent groups of walkers; basically anyone with a will to walk and help fight poverty and injustice can be a part of it. The event allows each participating group to canvass their friends, family and anyone who is willing to donate to a worthy cause. Last year we managed to raise over a crore from both the teams and sponsors. We welcome independent donors as well.
And where do the funds go, once they’ve been collected?
Oxfam is affiliated with almost 200 NGOs in India working for causes that fall within the aegis of our goals. The funds are distributed to these charitable organizations and programs based on the severity of the problems they’ve faced and other requirements. We have a strict auditing procedure to ensure absolute transparency and accountability for every rupee spent.
Tell us about how you became the CEO of Oxfam India.
Well, I was involved with relief work and rights activism in Africa and South East Asia, and it was suggested to me that the work Oxfam was doing in India was on a larger scale and that I could help and empower more people in this capacity. I also understood that despite the many organizations working towards social reform and poverty alleviation in India, they lack the coherence and the tremendous fundraising capabilities that an organization like Oxfam could provide.