Actor Scarlett Johansson visits India & Sri Lanka; commits to helping end poverty

General, Media Releases article written on the 26 Feb 2007

Delhi:  Actor Scarlett Johansson has joined international agency Oxfam in the fight against poverty following a life-changing trip to India and Sri Lanka. During her ten-day visit, Scarlett learned how investing in education and basic health-care are vital to saving lives and lifting millions of poor children and families out of poverty. She also met Indian women who’ve survived domestic violence and Tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka.
Scarlett, who has been a long-time supporter of Oxfam, was moved by the organization’s response to saving and rebuilding lives following the 2004 Tsunami. She travelled with the international development organization to better understand the complex issues facing poor communities and how support and funding from the US and other rich nations can help end poverty.
She began her trip spending a day with young girls at an Oxfam-funded school in rural Uttar Pradesh, India that has enabled over a thousand poor children from the lowest Dalit caste to gain a basic education. In Delhi she met with survivors of domestic violence who are part of Oxfam’s “We Can” campaign. Over 800,000 people have joined the campaign to overcome domestic violence which affects millions of women across South Asia.
“Having visited Oxfam-funded school programs in rural communities has made me realize how vital education is to developing countries in bringing people out of poverty and giving them a sense of dignity, self-worth and confidence,” Scarlett Johansson said.
Scarlett, who is currently in India, said, “I met a young girl, Gudiya, at a school for Dalit children, a community considered to be the lowest class. She was an amazing, bright young girl, full of ambition and attending the fifth grade. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said ‘a government official’. Every morning she rises at three a.m to study and then complete the household chores before walking for half an hour to school. I asked her how she felt she would be able to raise her family and also hold a government position. She responded confidently, ‘I can manage’. Her self-pride and drive to succeed was an obvious outcome from her schooling.”
In Sri Lanka, Scarlett met with a Sri Lankan Tsunami survivor Bandawathi Maitipe and her son Asela Abeytunga. Bandawathi is piecing her life together after losing her husband, younger son and tailoring business.
“The devastation both directly and indirectly as a result of the tsunami is overwhelming. A mother who had received aid money to finance her small business and was living with her 25 year-old-son had lost both her husband and younger son as well as their home and tailoring shop, the only source of income. After two years, they are still waiting to be housed, after a long struggle with a landlord from whom they have rented the house for the past fifty years. Afterwards, I went to visit a rural fishing community which Oxfam had fully irrigated, allowing people to live safely in a government development. After hearing such a devastating case that morning, seeing this village thrive gave me a sense of hope and progress. It was an incredible opportunity to see the grass roots approach being taken by non-governmental organizations, such as Oxfam, towards reconstructing the lives of this devastated country.”
Oxfam’s Executive Director, Jeremy Hobbs, said that Scarlett’s involvement was very important in helping gain attention to the solutions to poverty.
“By supporting Oxfam, Scarlett is taking a stand alongside millions of people globally who are working to overcome poverty,” said Oxfam’s Hobbs. “Her support is crucial in helping to show how the smallest donation to Oxfam can mean the world of difference to a poor community.”

Key facts:
• Currently 100 million children are out of school worldwide; the majority of those are girls.
• Over two billion people globally survive on less than $2 a day
• In India, 40 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys will never complete a basic education.
• In Utter Pradesh state alone, 70% girls have never enrolled in a school.
• One billion people live day after day without clean water, and two billion without a basic toilet.
• Diarrhea, a disease of dirty water, is the biggest killer of under-fives in poor countries, resulting in 6,000 preventable deaths each day
• In Delhi, India, only one per cent of connections have 24-hour water supply
• Indian population below poverty line (US$1 per day): 34.7% (and 2 in 3 people live on less than $2 a day)
Notes to Editors

1) Oxfam is an international confederation of 13 independent non-government organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and related injustice around the world. Our ultimate goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage their own lives. The confederation is best described as “international agency Oxfam”.
2) Oxfam has been working in Sri Lanka since 1968. Our focus is on the extreme poverty suffered by those who are affected by the long-lasting conflict in the country. We have helped over 600,000 Tsunami survivors with disaster preparedness, housing, livelihoods support, small loans and grants for small businesses, education, public health, shelter building and women’s rights work.
3) Oxfam has been working in India since the 1950s to provide self-help to the poorest people in India. It includes work on livelihoods, gender equality, disaster preparedness, girls’ education, HIV/AIDS and rights of indigenous tribal communities.
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