Shaista Aziz is a member of Oxfam’s Rapid Response Team and the Middle Eastern region media coordinator. She has been part of Oxfam work at most of the recent humanitarian disaster spots, including Aceh after the Tsunami, the Kashmir earthquake zone and most recently Lebanon.
Writing in her blog posted on 3rd August 2006 she notes, “my energy levels are beginning to drop as the fatigue sets in I can feel the stiffness in my neck and shoulders. The combination of a lack of sleep, the heat, information overload and temporarily living in a conflict zone has an impact on you. Since the Oxfam rapid response team arrived in Beirut on Saturday we’ve been working around the clock. We’ve been meeting partner organizations on the ground, making phone calls to partners in the main conflict areas in the south to gather information about the humanitarian needs, and coordinating our relief response with our international NGO’s. This is the third emergency that I’ve worked on in a year and a half. The challenges that we are facing are immense. The UN estimates that 900,000 people are displaced in Lebanon with a further 150,000 displaced in Syria, this in addition to an estimated 350,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. The Middle East is home to an increasing number of people who have had to flee from their towns and villages because of conflict, many unable to ever return to their land?..
Shaista, from Oxford, joined Oxfam in 2004. When 22 she spent time in the refugee camps of Balata and Jenin in the West Bank and the slums of Khan Younis and Rafah in the Gaza Strip, noting, “I accompanied ambulance drivers and paramedics. I worked with Palestinian women who had set up income-generating projects in refugee camps”.
Writing about her own life experiences, she observes, “I am a British Muslim woman, and two years ago I decided to start wearing the hijab.. like thousands of Muslim women across the world – the hijab has become part of me, and I wear it with confidence and pride?the journey started a year before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, but my quest for knowledge accelerated after September 11th when the Muslim community around the world and in the UK were under intense scrutiny by the politicians and the media. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be a visible Muslim. I wanted people who walked past me in the street to know that I am a Muslim and that I am proud of my religion, heritage and culture”.
Before joining Oxfam, she worked for Al-Jazeera’s English news website in Doha, Qatar. She has worked for the BBC and written for New Internationalist magazine. In 2006 she was elected to the National Union of Journalists’ Black Members Council. She has been a guest speaker at the International Women’s Festival 2006.