Nonprofit Oxfam’s inclusivity guide calls English the ‘language of a colonising nation’

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British humanitarian organization Oxfam called English “the language of a colonising nation” that must be “addressed in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power,” according to its newly released 92-page inclusivity guide for employees. 

“We … recognise that this guide has its origin in English, the language of a colonising nation. We acknowledge the Anglo-supremacy of the sector as part of its coloniality,” the introduction to the guide stated.

“This guide aims to support people who have to work and communicate in the English language as part of this colonial legacy,” the guide continued. “However, we recognise that the dominance of English is one of the key issues that must be addressed in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power.”

Oxfam is a global charity organization founded in Oxford in 1942 to fight worldwide famine, but it currently works in 80 countries around the world. 

“However good organizational intentions, the work of Oxfam and other international NGOs emerged from Britain’s colonial history and we are still affected by that past,” Oxfam told Fox News Digital in a statement. “We are committed to challenging this colonial legacy and culture.”


Oxfam added that the Inclusive Language Guide was created so staff, particularly those who work on external communications, could use language “that treats all people with respect, kindness, and dignity.”

“It is intended as a thought-provoking tool for our staff on how the words we use can subvert or inadvertently reinforce different forms of inequality that we work to end,” the statement said. “The guide contains words and phrases that are relevant to other development and humanitarian organizations, with an explanation of why we might use that phrase instead of other common phrases in the context of power.”

The report warned against “colonial” phrases like “headquarters,” indicated “local” might be offensive and stated “people” could be patriarchal as it “is often misunderstood as only referring to men.” Other words that should be avoided include “youth,” “the elderly” and “seniors.”

The guide also told staff that “parent” or “parenthood” is preferable to “mother” or “father,” to “avoid assuming the adoption of gendered roles by transgender parents.” The guide clarifies that “if individual parents have a preference for a role name” like mother or father, Oxfam employees should “respect their choice.”

The term “feminine hygiene” should also be removed and the phrase “expectant mothers” should be replaced with “people who become pregnant.”  Oxfam also warned the word “headquarters” “implies a colonial power dynamic” and that “aid sector” “cements an ideology where an agent with resources gives support on a charitable basis” and “field trip” which could “reinforce colonial attitudes.”


Oxfam tweeted it was disappointed critics has “decided to misrepresent the advice offered in the guide by cropping the document” online.

“The guide is not intended as a prescriptive document, rather a tool to deepen understanding of people’s experiences,” the organization said told Fox News Digital in its statement. “We are proud of using inclusive language: we won’t success [sic] in tacking poverty and inequality by excluding marginalized groups.”

Oxfam was criticized on Twitter with some critics calling on donors to give their money to other organizations. 

“Stop giving them money. Problem solved,” MP Brendan Clarke-Smith tweeted. 

Journalist Ben Kentish said the language guide was “ridiculous,” but so were calls to quit funding the organization. “The Oxfam language guide is ridiculous. Suggesting that it means we should end funding for a charity working to stop the world’s poorest children dying is significantly more ridiculous,”  he tweeted. 

“People struggling to survive in east Africa do not care about pronouns. They don’t care about gender identity,” activist and  social media influencer Oli London tweeted. 

“Oxfam. This is the whole point. If mother = anyone who wishes to be described as a mother and father = anyone who wishes to be described as a father then you have done away with any possibility of meaning or analysis. Words mean something,” activist Maya Forstater responded to Oxfam. 


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