Oxfam: Improving Livelihoods

The mission of Oxfam GB (Oxfam) is to tackle poverty and inequality across the world, including the UK and Ireland where more than 13 million people live in poverty.

Poverty today

You’re more likely to be poor if you’re a woman – women earn just 10% of the world’s income, yet work two-thirds of the world’s working hours.

Poverty is about injustice and inequality, wherever you are. It can mean children going to school hungry or to bed without enough food.

It can mean not being able to afford a winter coat or to heat your home. It’s no coincidence that people in poor communities are in worse health and have a shorter life expectancy, and as costs soar, the problem is expected to get worse.

Combating poverty through improving nutrition & self-esteem

The Unilever Foundation’s partnership with Oxfam will improve lives around the world through programmes designed to empower individuals – particularly women – and to deliver good nutrition and clean, safe drinking water.


In the UK we work in partnership with Oxfam on the UK Poverty Programme, helping women and their families who live in poverty, providing them with basic nutrition and improving their self-esteem

The partnership is providing thousands of people around the UK with access to emergency food support through distribution of surplus food and food banks. This emergency support gives the needy a minimum of three days’ nutritionally balanced food, telling them where to go for further help. The partnership is also enabling hundreds of women and their families to develop demonstrably improved financial, social and public assets (for example through skills training) and move permanently from a condition of simply ‘surviving’ to one of ‘thriving’.

With Oxfam we also support the Foodbank and schools in Tower Hamlets, in east London. Tower Hamlets has one of the youngest populations in the country, but is one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK. 46% of children in Tower Hamlets live below the national poverty line. [LBTH Child Poverty In Tower Hamlets Briefing, 2013]


In July 2012 Unilever Thailand set up a programme with Oxfam to enhance women’s livelihoods in Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani. The programme is in line with the Unilever Foundation’s global mission and aims to give women the basic skills needed for sustainable farming and to develop their understanding of business, so that they can create a better – and more sustainable – future for themselves and their families.

During the first year of our programme in Thailand, we provided direct support to 375 women. Two training sessions on women’s leadership and economic development were held, with more than 200 women attending.


Unilever works with Oxfam Australia and has embarked on a three-year partnership with them in support of programmes in Australia and Cambodia. In Australia, one programme that aligns with our business is in the area of health and well-being work where Oxfam is helping to raise life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by providing culturally sensitive health services.

Another initiative – also in line with Unilever’s support for gender diversity – is Oxfam’s Straight Talk programme, which helps women in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to understand the Australian political system and, if they wish, get involved


In Cambodia, Unilever is providing support that will help Oxfam to build clean water systems and toilets, provide water filters and promote hygiene across 71 villages. Many people in these villages lack access to clean water and adequate sanitation, and infectious diseases are widespread. Last year one of Unilever Foundation Global Ambassadors from Nigeria visited Cambodia and shared her experiences.


In Mexico, we are collaborating with Oxfam Mexico in a project called Safe Water, Health Promotion and Food Safety, supporting two communities in Tabasco, one of the Mexican states that is most affected by climate change. Forty employees volunteered to take part in workshops aimed at families and children, and gave advice on healthy nutrition, the importance of handwashing with soap and the value of self-esteem among girls and young women. Unilever Pureit water purifiers were donated to families.

Unilever also works with Oxfam on disaster and emergency relief and has responded emergencies across Africa, India, Pakistan, Philippines and the Syria Crisis.

More information about our partnership with Oxfam in other countries will be shared here as it becomes available.