Scarlett Johansson’s recent success in movies such as “The Avengers” and the 2014 Academy Award nominee for best picture, “Her,” has made Johansson a household name. Off the screen, Johansson has made the most of her celebrity status by influencing political leaders and everyday citizens to stand up and fight the ongoing war on poverty.

Recently though, Johansson parted ways with Oxfam, a global organization who assists impoverished nations with finding innovative ways to pull their people out of poverty. Serving as the Oxfam Ambassador since 2007, Johansson has provided much support for the organization by increasing awareness, participating in fundraising, promoting advocacy and profile-raising activities.

While this breakup is unfortunate for the parties involved, what remains a positive aspect in the situation is the good that Oxfam and Johansson have mutually accomplished over the past 8 years where she served as their Global Ambassador. Johansson’s motivation to get involved with humanitarian efforts spawned after she made a life-changing trip to India and Sri Lanka. There she met tsunami survivors and witnessed several Oxfam-funded projects whose purpose was to rebuild ravaged communities in the area.

Over the years, Johansson joined forces with a plethora of different movements such as the “We Can” campaign that aimed at shifting attitudes which support violence against women in India and Sri Lanka. Johansson was also involved in Oxfam’s GROW campaign which advocated reforming bad policies and increasing ways to make food sustainability more efficient.

“Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. On a global scale, we don’t share fairly. Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is: the global food system is a broken one. All of us, from Kentucky to Kenya, deserve enough to eat,” said Johansson.

Oxfam accepted Johansson’s resignation after much controversy was stirred from her participation in a SodaStream commercial which was set to air during the Super Bowl. Her affiliation with the Tel Aviv-based soda machine company which operates in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim was criticized by several pro-Palestinian groups as well as Oxfam itself, who are opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements deeming them illegal under international law.

“While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Johansson stated that Oxfam and her had “a fundamental difference of opinions,” when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the 29-year-old actress has parted ways with the organization, she reassured the public that she remains, “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

Regardless of the fallout, the one thing that can’t be denied is the effects Johansson’s efforts have had on many struggling communities. From providing funding for underprivileged students seeking education, to increasing US consumer interest, Johansson has made a significant difference when it comes to fighting global poverty.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Oxfam, LA Times, Oxfam
Photo: Business Insider

This week, The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) held its third consecutive “One Night to Change Lives” fundraiser in Dubai’s Armani Hotel. The event was a gala fundraiser and all proceeds went towards Dubai Cares, an organization based in the United Arab Emirates, and Oxfam. The festival was supported by United Nations Messenger of Peace Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

Donations were collected through an action that sold both experiences and collectibles. Among the most notable experiences auctioned off were two tickets to the world premiere of Captain America: The Winter Solider, donated by actress Scarlett Johansson, and tickets to the premiere of the latest James Bond film. Among the auctioned items were James Bond memorabilia and paintings by Abolfazl Lierh and Afsaneh Taebi.

The stars who attended the event included actresses from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Goldie, Bollywood stars. The Earl and Countes of Carnavon attended the event to support DIFF’s efforts. When asked why she had flown to Dubai, the countess replied, “for all of us back home, it’s hard to understand, as we sit in comfortable homes with central heating, that many millions of people have been displaced in Syria, and another two million have nowhere to live. It’s absolutely horrendous.”

The gala raised over $1 million in donations that will be used to address the current crisis in Syria. Hundreds of children and families have sought refugee in Lebanon and Jordan and do not have access to enough supplies for survival. The proceeds from the gala will go towards basic supplies and sanitation facilities for the refugees.

The previous year, the event also raised over $1 million to fund schools in Pakistan. Further donations are being accepted on the Oxfam United Kingdom website.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: All Africa
Photo: Time Out Dubai

Dadaab Stories: By the People, For the People
A story is best told by someone who was there. Whereas many documentaries as made by directors and producers passionate about the cause they are filming for, there is a difference between an outsider shooting their subjects, and the subjects shooting themselves.

The organization FilmAid had initially begun to screen videos and films at refugee camps. These films were mostly educational, providing those living in refugee camps with important safety and health information. They also showed films for purely entertainment purposes in order to help lighten the mood and spirit at the camps. In 2011, however, the organization’s branch in Dadaab, the world’s biggest refugee camp in Somalia, began a special project entitled “Dadaab Stories” where it began to train the refugees to work the cameras themselves and have the chance to tell their stories from their perspective.

Dadaab was built in the 1990s to house 90,000 refugees. Today, it is the home to over 500,000 refugees. Describing life in a refugee camp is difficult; insiders know more and have been around longer than an outside film crew.

Ryan Jones, an American videographer who joined FilmAid’s project in 2011, said that the part of the appeal of the program that it strays from the usual model of “an American film crew coming into a camp and spending a short period of time there and shooting some kind of 90-minute doc we hope to get into Sundance.”

Refugees have made various videos such as an emergency response video regarding a cholera outbreak, a safety video for rape awareness, the camp’s orientation film, a music video for the local group Dadaab All Stars, and documentation of actress Scarlett Johansson’s visit.

In October of 2011, however, a kidnapping incident involving Doctors Without Borders created intense restrictions and security issues which prevented the FilmAid team from coming back to Somalia. Since then, the refugees have been trying to manage posting videos and have begun to make their camp-wide newspaper The Refugee available online.

This project has not only taught the refugees a new and unique skill they would otherwise not have the chance to learn, but it gives them a creative outlet to truly show the world what life in a refugee camp is like. They may not be making feature length films or Sundance-worthy documentaries, but their progress and work are so valuable that it could never be put into a simple award category.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST