Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

Jo Cox, the British MP murdered last week, helped setting up Oxfam’s EU office in Brussels. Oxfam staff will join Jo’s friends and former colleagues at Ancienne Belgique in the city centre of Brussels on Wednesday, the day that would have been her 42nd birthday, to celebrate this incredibly strong woman.

Here is a message to Jo, to her friends and to the world:

Sonia, Elise, Louise, Celine and Zander, all wished they could be here with us, right now, in the place where they met, worked with and became friends with the mighty and most lovely Jo Leadbeater.

Back in 2002, there was no Oxfam International EU advocacy office. No smartphones, no Facebook, no Twitter.

The Make Trade Fair campaign had just been launched and it was BIG. There were just two in a small cubicle in SOLIDAR and they were given the ‘modest’ task of changing the EU’s position in the trade negotiations at the WTO and getting the European Oxfams to work together on advocacy at the EU level for the first time.

Looking back, it is not clear which task was more challenging. But that didn’t really matter to Jo. Without thinking twice, and with that cheeky grin of hers, Jo just said: “Of course we can do that!”

Jo had an ability to convince whichever decision-maker was in front of her. She’d always had a natural ability to connect with people and a winning smile. Jo always – always – drew the best out of those she worked with.

There was a roundtable with journalists set up for her but we forgot to brief her on Gaza. At the end of an hour’s detailed discussion she said, “perhaps next time tell me before you put me up to talk about that?”

She was fearless, even when out of her depth, which made us braver.

Imagine the scene of some slightly baffled ACP ambassadors, who couldn’t quite believe that this tiny Yorkshire woman, who looked like she was just out of university, was rallying them to take a united stand on sugar reform at the WTO. And they did.

That was Jo. No mountain was too high, real or imaginary. She was a little dynamo who lighted the way and brought everyone along with her. Always looking for allies, always able to see beyond people’s differences, with clear targets in mind.

Today it is that same energy that we want to remember. That energy was contagious. You couldn’t be around Jo and not be inspired, not be energized…

Jo dedicated her life to the struggle against injustice and intolerance.

Many people across Oxfam and beyond were touched by her. So many were inspired by her compassion, commitment and energy for change. She was clearly an incredible woman.

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