Many people are socially and economically disadvantaged in Hong Kong society, such as ethnic minority residents, which number about five per cent of the population, and people with disabilities, which is about six per cent. Oxfam helps empower people to claim their rights and to advocate better policies.
Case 1: People with disabilities
1st Step Association, which Oxfam began supporting in 2003, works with people with disabilities, as well as with their caregivers, who also face hardships. The policy advocacy group carries out a range of actions, such as urging Legislative Council members to legislate better community services.
In the past, only two schools in Hong Kong have had residential respite services for children with disabilities, yet 1st Step succeeded to convince the Education Bureau to set up two more. One caregiver-advocate, Bo Bo, says, “My 14-year-old son studies at one of the seven schools for children with disabilities, but only two have residential respite services. I know a mother who has cancer. When she has to go to the hospital, there is no one to take care of her disabled child. I also know a caregiver who looks after a disabled child and her husband with cancer. Can you imagine how hard her life must be? ” The Association’s persistence paid off. By 2011, four of the seven schools will have dormitories.
Oxfam has also supported various groups over the years, such as Alliance for Renal Patient’s Mutual Help Association, Association of Women with Disabilities, Care for Your Heart, Hong Kong Epilepsy Association, Hong Kong Federation of The Blind, Hong Kong Neuro-Muscular Disease Association, Hong Kong Occupational Deafness Association and Retina Hong Kong.
Case 2: Ethnic minorities
Oxfam believes that every person has equal rights, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender or culture. According to government statistics, almost 70 per cent of ethnic minority workers in Hong Kong earn less than HK$4,000 a month. Oxfam addresses such inequality through a wide range of legal advocacy, community projects, and public education.
One income-generation project Oxfam has supported is Love Multi-Culture, a shop in Kwai Fong which sells handicrafts, jewellery and accessories made by South Asian women. One participant, Ranjitkaual, 35, says that before working at the shop two days a week, she had difficulty finding a job. Not speaking Chinese meant that she often felt removed from the culture, and lonely. Nowadays, Ranjitkaual earns HK$500 to $1,000 a month, and says, “I am happy that I can make some money. It is not much, but at least I can have some support for my family. The centre is like a platform where we can meet new friends and have contact with society.” The organisation behind Love Multi-Culture is HK SKH Lady MacLehose Centre Group, a partner organisation of Oxfam.
Another Oxfam partner oragnisation, Hong Kong Unison concentrates exclusively on ethnic minority rights. UNISON has lobbied hard for legislation against racial discrimination, and in July 2009, the Racial Discrimination Ordinance finally became effective. A current call by UNISON is for the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) to adopt university admission requirements for non-Chinese speaking students.