Even It Up Poetry Challenge  

Young Poets Network is joining forces with Oxfam to tackle global inequality and gender inequality through poetry!

Our friends at Oxfam give us a bit more insight into these issues, and why they’re so significant for every person on the planet.

Across the world, the gap between the rich and poor is spiralling out of control. The richest get richer, while millions of people struggle for food, water and shelter. It’s hurting us all and standing in the way of ending poverty. 

Our challenge to you is to write a poem or spoken word piece exploring global inequality or gender inequality. The challenge is open to young people aged 11-25 from the UK, and to teachers entering their pupils’ work. The deadline is 31 March, so there will be plenty of time to be inspired by International Women’s Day on 8 March.2

Global inequality – more or less equal?
The extreme gap between the world’s richest and poorest is no accident: as wealth is concentrated into a tiny minority, so too is power. Those with the most can often abuse it. For example:

  • Some of the wealthiest individuals can avoid paying their fair share by putting money in tax havens
  • Governments find the money to bail out struggling banks, but not to give every child in the world a primary education
  • Some massive multinational corporations regularly pay lower levels of tax than small local businesses

It’s not about being anti-rich; it’s about being pro-equality and fairness. Everyone should have the chance to receive an education, get treatment if they’re ill, find a job which doesn’t exploit them or make them unwell, and to give their children the best chances in life.

Gender inequality – mind the gender gap.


The bad news
Does a baby’s gender make a difference to its life chances? Yes, overwhelmingly. Women account for two thirds of the people currently living in extreme poverty, and also account for 60% of the working poor in the world. Globally, women own fewer assets than men. They earn less money, have fewer legal rights, do the vast majority of unpaid care work, and are grossly under-represented on the political stage. They’re often legally discriminated against too: 128 countries still give women a lower legal status than men. One in three women will suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, meaning many are also living in constant fear of abuse.


The good news

“We cannot fulfil 100% of the world’s potential by excluding 50% of the world’s people. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

We need to tackle gender inequality because of the unjust and damaging effects on the well-being of women and girls. Doing so will also have wider benefits.  Women have the greatest potential to end the poverty and injustice that they and their families and communities face.  If women had the same opportunities as men in the labour market this could add $12trillion (£7.8trillion) to the size of the global economy. And the money which women earn goes straight back to their families:  girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men spend only 30-40%. Imagine the boost equal opportunities would provide to women and to their families! In fact 100-150 million people could be lifted out of hunger by closing the gender gap in agriculture alone.  A world that invests in women’s rights is a world that invests in the end of poverty for everyone.


The Challenge
We want you to write a poem or spoken word piece in direct response to inequality.

We are thrilled that Sadia Ahmed, winner of SLAMbassadors UK 2014, will be judging this challenge! See below to be inspired by Sadia’s own spoken word. 

Some ideas to consider:

  1. You could explore the Oxfam resources and research your chosen topic, or write about your immediate reaction to the information included in the challenge.
  2. You might choose to write from one side of the situation, or take in both sides of the divide.
  3. It could be a very personal poem, or a very general poem about how inequality affects whole communities.
  4. You might want to incorporate statistics from the Oxfam infographics, or from your own research.

More inspiration

  • Watch ‘Emotional Euthanasia by Sadia Ahmed, winner of SLAMbassadors UK 2014

“Give women their freedom they will soar like kites / Girls just wanna have fun – damental human rights”

  • Watch ‘How to lose a friend in 3 minutes’

  • Watch ‘The Girl Effect’

  • Read ‘Daughters’ by Phoebe Stuckes, a winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2013.

“Let us no longer keep keys in our knuckles
Let us run into the streets hungry, fervent, ablaze.”

How to enter

This challenge is now closed. Check back here to find out the winners!

This challenge is for poets aged 11-25, from the UK. Poems will be judged in three age categories: 11-14 years, 15-18 years and 19-25 years. The deadline is 31 March 2016. You can send a written poem, or a performance poem as a video or as an audio file. You can send as many poems as you like (but written poems must not exceed 40 lines and audio/video recordings of poems must not exceed two minutes).

If you are sending a written version of your poem, please include it in the body of an email to educationadmin@poetrysociety.org.uk. If you are sending a video or audio file please send it using WeTransfer (for files up to 2GB).

Please make sure to include:

  • Your date of birth (so we know in which age category your poem belongs).
  • The title/s of your poem/s.

We will add you to the Young Poets Network emailing list – please let us know if you’d rather we didn’t!

For teachers submitting students’ work:

  • Please send us an entry form along with your students’ poems.

You can find a safeguarding policy for this challenge here.

We will select one winning entry per age category, as well as several highly commended poems. If your poem is selected we will seek your permission to share it publicly and the permission of a parent/guardian if you are under 18.

The selected poets from each age category will be published on the Young Poets Network and the Oxfam websites and sent an exclusive Young Poet’s Network notebook. For teachers entering a minimum of 10 poems your names will be entered into a random prize draw for the chance to win a free poet visit to your school.

Resources for teachers
If you are a teacher reading this, we have good news! We have produced a whole set of resources suitable for students from ages 11+. It contains plans for lessons and an assembly to introduce students to the challenges of inequality and encourage them to write poetry in response. The resources are especially suited to English teachers but you can take part in this challenge in or outside of curriculum time.

If you are working with a group of young people volunteering in their own time why not sign them up to become Oxfam Youth Ambassadors. This is a prestigious scheme (completely free) which rewards young people for developing their skills on making their voices heard as global citizens.

Terms and Conditions
Before entering, make sure you have read the full terms and conditions.