Strengthening communities, empowering women

Onchita Shadman, Communication/Public Information Associate, UNHCR Bangladesh

Onchita Shadman
Onchita Shadman

The Rohingya crisis is one of the most prolonged displacement situations in the world. Rohingyas are an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority with a long history of residence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. For decades, they have been denied citizenship and their freedom of movement and religion has been restricted.

Since early 1990s, about 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees have been living in two official camps in Bangladesh’s south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar. Thanks to the IKEA Foundation’s support, UNHCR in Bangladesh has managed to improve the living conditions of these refugees by providing them with better education, shelter and income generating activities.

Refugee children playing outside a school in Kutupalong Camp -  ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa
Refugee children playing outside a school in Kutupalong Camp – ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa

Many refugees now live in newly repaired shelters. Primary school enrollment has improved and quality education is being provided for some 8000 children. Computer training and vocational trainings in electrical works, tailoring and carpentry are regularly offered to enhance the employability of refugees.

The computer training access centers in the camps offer both basic and advanced computer courses, and are open to host community students since 2012 - ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa
The computer training access centers in the camps offer both basic and advanced computer courses, and are open to host community students since 2012 – ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa

Despite the assistance provided to these communities, several problems persist. A significant issue is the high level of domestic abuse in the camps that often make it difficult for women to achieve self-reliance. 35-year-old Ambia was one such victim. A mother of five children, Ambia didn’t know whom to ask for support until she attended a community based awareness session. Ambia later enrolled in a tailoring course and is now the proud owner of a home based tailoring shop.  As a result of this additional income, Ambia’s husband started acknowledging his wife’s contribution in the family. They can now buy adequate food and their children became regular in school.

With the support of IKEA Foundation and UNIQLO, refugees produce women’s sanitary materials -  ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa
With the support of IKEA Foundation and UNIQLO, refugees produce women’s sanitary materials – ©UNHCR/S. Mostafa

Last year, UNHCR and its partners rehabilitated 84 vulnerable refugee women like Ambia, who were either survivors of sexual and gender-based violence or were very prone to be victims. Another 150 refugee women have successfully completed vocational training.

Refugee women are also playing a stronger leadership role by participating in the Camp Management Committees that operate alongside aid agencies to take care of the programs in the camps.

Between 2013 and 2016, the UNHCR-IKEA project will focus on maximising these opportunities. We will continue to improve the self-reliance of the refugee community with a particular focus on women’s empowerment.

We welcome the IKEA IWitness team in Bangladesh and look forward to sharing our journey with you!

 

 

 

English
    Juli Riegler