Oxfam is asking women to get together and Have a bit of a Do this March to raise money for the charity’s women’s projects.

Zoe Ball, Annie Lennox, Helen Mirren, Laura Bailey and thousands of women across the UK are already on board, with this week of events joining the global celebrations for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Oxfam ambassador Annie Lennox OBE inspired the idea of the Oxfam Do when she brought together a group of friends to celebrate women’s achievements and to fundraise and campaign on behalf of women around the world in 2008. Oxfam wants thousands more women to Have a bit of a Do and provide a united voice for many women who would otherwise go unheard.

From afternoon tea to a Mexican feast, each Oxfam Do can be as individual as the host. Friends, family and colleagues can join in and do dinner, do drinks, do dancing, do something – to celebrate and help women in poverty.

Zoe Ball invited her friends for afternoon tea and cake at Claridges for her Oxfam Do (on 25 February): "On my travels with Oxfam to Malawi and India, I’ve seen for myself the appalling conditions and lack of healthcare that so many women face during pregnancy and childbirth. I’m passionate about improving the rough deal that women in developing countries face in so many areas of life. I hope lots of other women will be inspired to do something to show their support for women who deal with devastating poverty on a daily basis. It’s a sobering thought that every minute, a woman with no medical care dies in pregnancy or childbirth. And the shocking truth is that domestic violence is the biggest cause of death and injury to women worldwide. We need to do something to change these dreadful statistics.

“What could be better than getting together with a few girlfriends to talk about the amazing things women have achieved and the obstacles we’ve overcome, share ideas about how to deal with the injustices that remain, and generally put the world to rights? Knowing that at the same time you’re raising money for Oxfam’s work with some of the most vulnerable women in the world makes it even more worthwhile. It’s a no-brainer – do dinner, do dancing, do cake, do cocktails, just do something!”

Oxfam Global Ambassador Annie Lennox OBE is also leading the EQUALS charity coalition for International Women’s Day: “The 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is something worth celebrating. We’ve come a long way in the last century, but there’s still so much to be done before all women enjoy equality and justice. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, the vast majority are women. Without economic independence, or a say in their own future, they have little hope of escaping the poverty trap. That’s why I’m spearheading the EQUALS coalition with Oxfam and over thirty other organisations. We hope that every woman will celebrate International Women’s Day this year. And what better way to celebrate than by ‘Having a bit of a Do’ with family and friends?”

Oxfam Global Ambassador Helen Mirren has travelled with Oxfam and gives her top tips for an Oxfam Do: “Please help women around the world by organising an ‘Oxfam Do’, it is a good way to celebrate women’s achievements and support Oxfam. In my travels with Oxfam I’ve met victims of domestic violence and firearms crimes in South Africa, and visited communities plagued by rebel fighters in Uganda. I’ve met some amazing women who are coping with levels of violence, tragedy, poverty and injustice that are simply unimaginable to most people. Despite the devastating hardship many women face in their daily lives, they are so often the lynchpin of the family and the heart of their community.”

Helen’s Top Tips for hosting an Oxfam Do:
1. Start with drinks, especially a welcoming, fun cocktail. I always find having something with fruit in it works well. Also make sure it can be offered with or without alcohol, for the drivers. Having some snacks at this point is also a good idea, such as crisps, nuts or olives so people aren’t just waiting around for dinner and can relax.

2. Cook something you’ve cooked before and don’t try something new. If possible, choose something that can be prepared in advance so you don’t have to spend much time in the kitchen when your guests arrive.

3. Don’t invite too many people that don’t know each other; mix up the guest list and avoid asking people who don’t get on

4. Don’t serve a starter, as cocktails and nibbles cover this. But do serve dessert and cheese after the main course. If you don’t have much time, buy a ready-made cold dessert, something like lemon tart or anything with chocolate in it!

5. Make a seating plan and consider name place settings. Think about where people should sit in advance to save time and trouble on the night. You can also swap people around for the dessert course if necessary.

6. Most of all enjoy the evening and enjoy raising funds for Oxfam as that’s what it’s all about!

Laura Bailey has visited one of the Oxfam Do projects in Ghana: "Pregnancy remains the leading killer of women in their reproductive years in developing countries. As a mother, that simply makes no sense. When I was pregnant, I had the luxury of worrying about how I’d juggle work and kids or wondering if they’d like art or football or ice cream. Elsewhere almost 1,000 women die every day from easily preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

“When I travelled with Oxfam to Ghana and Liberia I saw firsthand the agony of mothers who’ve lost their children and children who’ve lost their mothers. But I also witnessed the positive effects of the introduction of free maternal healthcare. I had the honour of witnessing a birth in a remote rural region and saw midwives working tirelessly through the night sometimes by torchlight. Change can happen, whispered from woman to woman and mother to child. Women are amazing and if Having a bit of a Do to celebrate this can help make a difference to the lives of some of the women I met then it has to be a good idea.”

There’s a long way to go before every woman can join this celebration – of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide more than two-thirds are women and girls. But women are catalysts for change. Empowering women can help them to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty. Oxfam is committed to helping women overcome adversity and achieve their potential, and every penny raised from Oxfam Do’s will go to Oxfam’s work with women around the world.

Hosts will be encouraged to include a Virgin Money Giving page with their invite to guests – this will enable even those who don’t attend to make a donation and raise funds to help millions of women living in poverty. For more information and to receive a free fundraising pack – including party ideas, themes and recipes – please go to oxfam.org.uk/pledge.

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