Fair Tax talks – OxOx 2016

campaigns, Uncategorized

Fair Tax: what does it look like and how do we get it?
Oxfam and University of Oxford co-sponsored Symposium

#OxOx2016 #FairTax

You know you’re a true adult when you spend your Tuesday evening at a conference on tax evasion.

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As dull as it sounds from the outside, it was surprisingly interesting. At work lately we’ve been covering tax evasion, the Panama Papers leak, tax havens and how it contributes to poverty. Because all the content is sent our way, it sometimes passes over my head and I don’t fully understand whats going on from all sides (which I probably should). I’m also a ONE campaign youth ambassador and we’re calling on our MPs to do more to pressure David Cameron ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit on 12th May to ensure tax transparency is a priority. Basically tax is a big deal at the moment and I want to learn more about how we can make it fair – to people like us and those living in poverty.

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The event, hosted by Oxfam GB CEO Mark Goldring, brought together the shared knowledge of Oxfam’s directors and the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre during the aftermath of the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal.

Dr Carlos Lopes from the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa was the keynote speaker. He introduced the notion of fair tax in Africa.

Dr Lopes told the room about how 6 out of 10 unequal countries in the world are in Africa – mostly in southern Africa. Coincidentally, 6 out of 10 jobs in Africa are classed as informal, which means employees are vulnerable to external shocks. Imagine if you had no protection over being fired out of the blue and no savings as a back up in case this happened. The closest comparison I can think of is being on a zero hour contract; no job stability and the inability to plan ahead.

‘We need to advocate for inclusive structural services – which will be economically empowering’ – Think less about international aid and more about how poorer countries can help themselves because money will be accessible to them if everyone pays the correct taxes.

‘The Panama Papers shone a light on tax evasion and now the whole world knows how bad it is’ – this is so true. I had very little interest in tax evasion until the Panama Papers leak, this Panorama story is a simple explanation of the global issue. Now that the world is listening, we need to take action to ensure this is the last tax scandal we have to witness.

’50/ 60 billion dollars are lost annually for Africa. Imagine the impact that could have in reducing poverty and increasing productivity’

Dr Lopes makes it simple; billions of dollars are disappearing. From countries who could desperately use the funds because of their current inequality status and vulnerability.

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The next speaker was Jayati Ghosh is Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi. As one of the world’s leading economists she spoke with confidence, grace and humour.

‘Taxation is part of a social contract – but the contract isn’t fully developed’ – No one is really sure where they stand in this contract so can get away with paying the bare minimum or nothing at all.

‘Flat tax means the burden falls heavily on the poor’
‘We’re encouraged to reward compliance. but what are we doing about those not paying taxes?’ – what are the rewards of paying your fair share of taxes? Healthcare, education, public services? These are available to those who avoid taxes too.

‘Thanks to Panama Papers we can see the illegal tax activity but not all tax avoidance lives in Panama or the Caymen Islands – some of the biggest tax havens are British Virgin Islands and the City of London’
‘If we’re serious about reaching the Sustainable Development Goals we need to get serious about tax avoidance’ – Basically, how can world leaders call for a more fair and equal world if other leaders, celebrities and big brands don’t pay their share of tax?!
‘Oxfam need to show up the tax havens in the UK’

Next up was Winnie Byanyima – the executive director of Oxfam International. Before that, she served as the director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme.

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Winnie believes that tax is a political issue. Representing Oxfam means being politically neutral on most topics but maybe this one is unavoidable.

‘Tax has the ability to create a fairer society due to the distribution of health and education.’

‘1 company tried to avoid paying $400million in tax in Uganda. Which is more than the government healthcare budget for a whole year’
‘We need an increase in transparency – which requires a global agreement from companies, country by country. The world is watching the Anti Corruption Summit’

‘We must call it what it is – it’s theft’



Kevin Watkins is Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute. His research focuses on education, globalisation and human development.
‘Google/Amazon/Starbucks think tax is voluntary, like making a donation’ – how do large corporations get away with treating the necessity of pay taxes like a voluntary action? Why do we still consume from these companies who avoid what we pay as citizens everyday?

‘In Pakistan tax is like an elite sport, incredibly rich people aren’t recording their wealth. What are you doing with that money? We need to format a smart strategy ahead of the Anti Corruption summit.’

‘It may be Africa’s problem but it needs a global solution’

Jayati ended the session with a question from the audience. A lady asked, how can we reward those who do pay their fair share of taxes? What are the carrots? ( a metaphor for rewards.)

Her answer was that ‘carrots for compliance didn’t work – sadly we’re only left with the stick for punishment..’

‘..and sticks work best when you don’t have to use them’

The event was really interesting to attend. Hearing from such prestigious directors and economists was truly inspiring and increased my interest in how our governments are going to tackle tax evasion.

Tomorrow is the Anti Corruption Summit. All eyes will be on London and David Cameron. Decisions made will decide the global position of wealth and poverty. As soon as taxes are fair, more money will be available for education, healthcare and jobs for the world’s most vulnerable. And the sooner that can happen, the better.


Catch me on Facebook, Twitter or instagram.


p.s. you can watch the summit live here use #AntiCorruption to join in with the conversation


Speaking in Parliament for ONE campaign

campaigns, Uncategorized

Tuesday 12th April 2016

I left work in Oxford early, caught a bus to Headington then on a coach to Victoria and a tube to Westminster. I do go into London quite often, but this day was a bit different to the usual. I was on my way to meet a few ONE youth ambassadors to see a screening of ‘He Named Me Malala’ in Portcullis House and then onto a reception and panel discussion at Speaker’s House. I’d been lucky enough to be asked to speak on the panel about ONE’s current campaign – Poverty is Sexist.

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Portcullis house – photo: the telegraph

Although the speaking in parliament part was a massive deal, it wasn’t overlooked by the fact that the film was amazing! I’ve looked up to Malala Yousafzai since I read her autobiography ‘I am Malala’ late last year. If you don’t know much about her, she is a Pakistani activist for female education and was the youngest ever Nobel Peace prize winner. Her story is complex (so either read her book or watch the film – or do both) but she was one of the only girls to stand up to the Taliban when they banned girls from going to school in her country. She was then shot by them on her way to school. She miraculously recovered (with the support of some big names, Beyonce included!) and continued campaigning for girls rights to an education. The Malala Fund was set up to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities.

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The film showed how Malala is just a regular girl, going to school, arguing with her little brothers but continually stands up for what she believes in. Her courage has been rewarded with physical awards and unseen respect and impact. She.is.amazing.

After the film we walked through a secret tunnel passageway to the Speaker’s House in the House of Commons. The sun was out and it looked like we walking through a film set, unfortunately we were told strictly no photos were allowed. We walked through to a reception of drinks and canapés and got chatting to the other guests who were mainly from charities or members of parliament.

The panel was hosted by Mark Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Ceredigion. Mark Williams is also co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global Education for All

“For far too many girls around the world, education is still little more than a pipe dream. Globally 200 million children have not completed primary school and around 60 per cent of these are girls.

“The scale of the challenge to provide each of them with a quality education is substantial but, as was shown by Malala, it is a vital one.” – Mark Williams

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inside Speaker’s House – photo: lemberth.co.uk

Soon it was my turn to represent ONE campaign; I was sat with the 3 other women speaking; Philippa Lei, director of policy and advocacy at The Malala Fund, Cate Turton  deputy director for youth and education at DFID and Francesca Danmole a representative from Theirworld.

Each person spoke confidently about why and how they were working towards females rights to education.

‘It’s unacceptable that girls everywhere don’t get a full 12 years of education. It gives girls wings to fly.’ – Philippa Lei


‘It’s not just about children’s access to education but their right to education’ – Cate Turton


‘I’m part of a global campaign to make sure all girls get an education’ – Francesca Danmole

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When it was my turn to speak I was 95% excited and 5% nervous. That 5% doesn’t usually exist but that’s because I’m normally faced with a crowd of mostly uninterested teenagers – on this occasion I was faced with a very elegant room full of MP’s and charity directors. When it was my turn, I spoke about ONE’s current campaign, Poverty is Sexist. 


‘Poverty is sexist. There’s not one place on the planet where it’s better to be a woman than a man.’ – Mary Mandefield

This disturbing statistic is because nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities.

‘Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women.’ – ONE campaign

Sometimes the number of women and girls living by the injustice of gender inequality can seem hard to get your head around. Because of this, I spoke about my host sister in Kenya.

‘I was reading I Am Malala while in Kenya & saw girls challenges first hand. I had to tell Malala’s story.’ 


Stella, who I lived with whilst volunteering in Ngare Ndare last year, is the same age as me. But our present situations and future appear to be very different. As a woman she is expected to prioritise marriage and starting a family over education or a career. She is a wife and a mother whilst I am a still a girl. A girl with a job I enjoy and a future I have control over. FGM, HIV, unstable health, forced relationships and lack of education (which subsequently leads to relying on partners for everyday tasks) are real threats to women and girls all over the world. These problems could quite easily be avoided if our world leaders took a stand to make education for girls a priority.

Educated girls become powerful women. Powerful women lift up a whole community. Gender equality isn’t about women, it’s about all of us. 

Malala stood up for her rights and was shot by the Taliban. She wasn’t silenced, whats more, her voice rose louder.

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Using your voice can be difficult if you don’t do it often, but it can also be very easy once you start. Emma Watson, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerburg, Bono and Mary J Blige are a few who’ve signed our letter already. And you can too. 

Thank you to those fellow ONE youth ambassadors and Billy who were so encouraging and supportive on the evening. I’m so grateful to be part of a group who are so passionate about taking actions to make a change.

Mary x

Chat about what you’re using your voice for on twitter – @mandefieldx

or Facebook – Girl got lost



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my host mum, sister & ONE campaign material. – follow me on instagram – @girlgotlost_

Why I’m so into activism & charity work

campaigns, Uncategorized


Because there’s no better way to get your voice heard

Because I think of my home as bigger than the city of Oxford

or the country of England

Because I enjoy meeting people who are passionate about something

Because it’s a great chance to travel

Because it will look good on my CV

Because it provides a chance to use and develop skills I don’t use in my everyday life

Because it’s really fun

Because I like being around like minded people


Because I’ve made friends for life

Because I get to be creative

Because so many young people feel like they don’t have a voice

Because I think I’ve got ideas worth hearing

Because I enjoy having friends and second families all over the world

Because I can’t sit back and watch global issues continue

Because I have high hopes for the world around me


Because I like filling my time with productive activities

Because I learn so much about the world around me

Because I get to do loads of really random stuff

Because I can change people’s minds

Because I can raise money for great causes

Because I find it hard to disconnect myself from other people’s issues

Because I know with other people we can slowly make a change


Mary x

See what I’m passionate about here 

See what I’m up to on Facebook