News blog

Insight, debate and development news from ActionAid's media team

In memory of Nirbhaya: one year on from the Delhi bus rape

Nina Kelly's picture Posted by Nina KellySenior Press Officer
 
A year ago, Jyoti Singh - known as Nirbhaya or fearless one - got on a bus in India where she was brutally assaulted and later died.

This time last year, Jyoti Singh – known as Nirbhaya, or ‘fearless one’ - did something entirely unremarkable that lots of us do every day: she got on a bus.

What happened next was to become world news, as she was violently raped and assaulted in an attack so gruesome that the details don’t bear repeating. Days later, she died of her injuries.

Yet the really terrifying thing is that this, too, was largely unremarkable. The specific details of Jyoti’s attack may have been exceptional, but a woman being sexually violated and murdered simply for being a woman is not.

Rape: an everyday lived reality

Instead, rape and other forms of violence against women and girls is an everyday lived reality for millions globally. It is not unusual; it happens everywhere.

One in three women will be affected by some form of violence in her lifetime.

The outrage that Jyoti’s death sparked in her native India - and beyond - was fuelled by the knowledge that she was not the only one, and nor would she be the last.

But she may just have sparked a flame, burning for change.

A year later, we have not forgotten and, with our partners around the world, continue to work to eliminate violence against women and girls. The types of violence that are consistently perpetrated against them – including among many things, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, sexual assaults and domestic violence - also trap women and girls, their families and whole communities in poverty.

Join us as we remember Nirbhaya

Join us on 16 December at 8.20am, at India Place on the Strand in London, as we remember Nirbhaya and stand in solidarity with survivors and victims of violence against women and girls. Our partners at ActionAid India will be doing the same in Delhi at a parallel event.

By the statue of Nehru outside the Indian Embassy, we will hear from actress Meera Syal, journalist and campaigner Sunny Hundal and Japjit Kaur from the cast of the acclaimed 2013 play Nirbhaya who will sing and read from the play.

Please wear black and, if you would like, bring a white flower to show solidarity with the millions of women worldwide who suffer violence and rape.

Please share our Facebook event and invite your friends to attend

@ActionAidUK will be tweeting about the memorial event. Follow the hashtag #Nirbhaya on Twitter on 16 December - a day of solidarity and action.

What Google tells us about the British Overseas Territories and tax havens

Richard Grange's picture Posted by Richard GrangeSenior Media Officer (News and Current Affairs)
 
Developing countries lose billions of pounds of cash through dodgy deals done in tax havens
Developing countries lose billions of pounds of cash through dodgy deals done in tax havens
Photo: ActionAid

This week the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and others, are meeting in London for their annual conference. And top of the agenda will be tax havens.

The territories, which the UK is ultimately responsible for,  have come under enormous pressure to shed their tax haven label and end the secrecy and financial  structures that allow big businesses to avoid paying billions of dollars of tax - often in poor countries.

But how much has really changed?

How Google has used Bermuda to avoid tax

The reality is that huge amounts of money are still being routed through tax havens – something recently illustrated by Google, which according to a recent report in the Financial Times, last year funnelled €8.8bn of investment into Bermuda.

That was an amount of cash that was a quarter up on the year before.

It’s a cunning ruse, because by routing royalty payments to Bermuda, Google legally reduces its overseas tax rate to about 5 percent.

Google is reporting revenues of over $300 million of revenues in India and is expanding in many other developing countries. The question is, if the same tax haven tricks are being used, could those countries also be losing out? 

Meanwhile only last Friday, the British Virgin Islands was named by the OECD as one of a number of countries that has failed to live up to the already pretty low, international standards of financial transparency.

The Islands are home to 850,000 offshore companies – roughly 30 per head of population – and was reportedly marked down because “in a significant proportion of cases the responses to exchange of information requests were incomplete”.

What next for the campaign against tax avoidance?

After pressure from campaigners in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has been able to kick the issue of tax havens onto the international agenda. He recently announced that that the UK will set up a public register of beneficial ownership and has also got the Overseas Territories to commit to sign a multi-lateral convention on tax information sharing.

But the reality is there still remains much more to be done.

As the case of the British Virgin Islands has once again demonstrated, it’s not good enough just to sign agreements – they have to be acted upon.

For the Overseas Territories and others to finally shed their tax haven label, we need to see changes on a much bigger scale.

We still need to see greater transparency and putting company accounts on public record so they can be examined by all,  would be a start.

But equally importantly, tax havens must also reform the harmful tax regimes and loopholes that continue to cost developing countries billions in lost revenue every year.

Until that happens the campaign goes on.

Typhoon Haiyan relief effort scaling up significantly in Philippines

Jane Moyo's picture Posted by Jane MoyoHead of Media Relations
 
Adorida
Adorida Pescante was at home with her grandson when Haiyan hit. They ran for shelter, returning to find rubble where their house once was. Tarpaulins and tents are urgently required as are corrugated iron sheets and building supplies.
Photo: ActionAid

We’re in the process of signing aid delivery agreements with a consortium of local organisations in the Philippines and over the next two weeks we will reach 15,000 people.

ActionAid has made our first delivery of aid to 420 of the worst affected families in the Santa Fe and Madredijos areas of Bantayan Island. In the Philippines, families average five per household so we've initally reached more than 2,000 women, men and children.  

After discussions with the community, it was agreed that meeting the basics was the priority and this is what was handed out:

Food packages

One week’s supply

Shelter sets

Non-food items

Hygiene kits

10 kg of rice

1 tarpaulin -24m2

1 five litre jerry can

1 family pack of toothpaste

1 kg of mungo beans

1 kg of nails

Slip-on footwear

5 toothbrushes

1 kg of sugar

30m of rope

1 flashlight with spare batteries

Facecloths

15 cans of food

1 hammer

A tub of water purification tablets

Soap

A box of biscuits

1 timber saw

1 bucket

4 packs of sanitary towels

Those initial supplies cost us just under £70 per household. All of it was bought in the Philippines so we are contributing to the local economy as well.

As supporters know, that’s really important to us, as is the mix of goods that we are supplying.

Everything is designed to meet people’s immediate needs but crucially, apart from the food packages, the items we are supplying will also help with rebuilding lives over the medium to long term. And in the case of the shelter sets, literally.

PHOTO GALLERY: Stars show support for Philippines Typhoon Appeal

Susan Alderson's picture Posted by Susan AldersonCelebrity Co-ordinator
 

On Monday, the great and the good of the entertainment world got together at London’s BT Tower to give up their time to answer the phones in support of the Disasters Emergency Committee Philippines Typhoon Appeal.  

An unprecedented number of celebrities including Jamie Oliver, Andrew Marr, Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney, Alan Rickman, Frank Skinner and stars from Downton Abbey gave up their time for a celebrity fundraising telethon.

ActionAid's very own Stephen Merchant, Fay Ripley, Sarah Alexander, Mark Watson, Nigel Havers and Nicholas Owen also took part.  The telethon raised over £90,000 taking the overall total to an extraordinary £44m so far.

The telethon gave supporters the chance to have their donation taken by a famous voice on the other end of the phone and also caused a huge surge in donations online and via text to give.

ActionAid already has a team on the ground. We’re aiming to provide basic relief, including providing food and we will also focus on long-term recovery, reaching out to women and girls who are often the hardest hit when disaster strikes. 

Please donate to ActionAid’s Philippines appeal 

Disaster in the Philippines: helping Super Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts

Jane Moyo's picture Posted by Jane MoyoHead of Media Relations
 
Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines
Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines
Photo: Erik de Castro/Reuters

Today an ActionAid team leaves for Manila in the Philippines to set up an 18-month Typhoon Haiyan community-based recovery and rebuilding initiative.

ActionAid is responding to Typhoon Haiyan because of the scale of the need in the Philippines in the face of what is an overwhelming disaster.

Supporters will know that we have recognised expertise in community mobilisation, rooted in child sponsorship. It’s those mobilisation skills we will bring to the Philippines so that we add value to what is already happening on the ground.

And whilst our work will include the basics, we’ll also be concentrating on long-term recovery by rebuilding lives and livelihoods.

Our sister agencies already operational in the Philippines, including other Disasters Emergency Committee charities, are better placed to take on first response as they have exisiting large programmes of work in the country.

Building back better

Yet our medium to long-term approach – what we call building back better - is a key focus of any emergency work and we’ll be collaborating closely with others to reach communities that have been overlooked or are struggling.

We’ll also focus on reaching women and girls who are always hardest hit when disaster strikes. Our work will start in earnest very shortly.

In the meantime we’re not standing still. ActionAid’s team arrives in the Philippines on Thursday and our humanitarian head, Mike Noyes, will be tweeting from the region. You can follow Mike on twitter on @mikenoyesuk

Super Cyclone Haiyan: the world’s most powerful storm

Jane Moyo's picture Posted by Jane MoyoHead of Media Relations
 
Super Typhoon Haiyan
Satellite view of Super Typhoon Haiyan gathering speed as the cyclone approaches the Philippines on Thursday 7th November
Photo: NOAA NOAA / Reuters, courtesy Trust.org

Meteorologists are speculating that Super Cyclone Haiyan - currently battering the Philippines – could be one of the world’s most powerful storms to ever make landfall.

With sustained winds of nearly 200 miles-per-hour, Haiyan has left a trail of devastation and is expected to hit Vietnam next.

Whilst ActionAid does not work in the Philippines, several of our sister agencies, all members of the Disasters Emergency Committee do, and we send them our best wishes as their operational work swings into action. 

ActionAid Vietnam on standby

ActionAid’s main concern lies in Vietnam, where more than 1,200 children are sponsored by supporters in the UK.

We’ve been told Haiyan is expected to hit the Vietnam coast at noon on Sunday. The hope is that the cyclone will have been downgraded to a Category 3 storm by then, although after making landfall it is expected to move up through the middle of the country, dissipating to a Category 1.

For supporters in the UK, Category 1 is still stronger than the recent St Jude storm that caused such disruption as it swept through southern England.

So whatever happens, Vietnam will suffer.

That’s why ActionAid has already put a local assessment team on standby.

Should we have to act, ActionAid in Vietnam will call on money from our Emergency Action Fund. It means we can respond quickly and help transform lives torn apart by disaster.