UNFPA Collaborates with the Government to Prevent Gender-Based Violence in Rohingya Camps

28 November 2019
UNFPA Collaborates with the Government to Prevent Gender-Based Violence in Rohingya Camps
UNFPA Collaborates with the Government to Prevent Gender-Based Violence in Rohingya Camps

The essence of a woman like all people is having the courage to be her own person and create her own vision of life— regardless of what society says. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) prevents women and girls from reaching their full potential. In Bangladesh, GBV is one of the most prevalent forms of human rights violation against women and girls.

Locally and globally GBV persists due to deep-rooted patriarchal norms where violence against women and girls or just violence in general is normalised. For generations through entertainment, literature and even social conduct those more vulnerable including girls and young women from poor, rural or indigenous communities, those who are or are perceived to be LGBTIQ+, those living with disabilities, and girls and women who speak out about political, social and cultural issues and gender inequality have been preyed upon.

Extreme violence in the Rakhine State in Myanmar has driven an estimated 700,000 people from the Rohingya community across the border into since August 2017. This exodus of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN) is one of the fastest developing forced displacement crises in the world. In Ukhia and Teknaf, the two Upazilas where most of the Rohingya have settled, the refugees outnumber the host community by almost a factor of four, with 87% settled in unplanned camps and the remaining 13% living among the host community

Rohingya women and girls face high levels of discrimination within their community, and most stay in their shelters due to social norms that limit their roles in the public sphere, as well as to avoid sexual assault and trafficking that occurs in the camps. This restricted mobility is particularly challenging for women-headed households who compose 16% of FDMN households. UN agencies and local NGOs have reported high levels of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking faced by women and girls in the camp.  Approximately 85% of sites within Bangladeshi communities hosting FDMN have no services for survivors of violence.

UNFPA estimates all women and girls are at risk of GBV. According to the VAW Survey 2015, jointly conducted by UNFPA and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 73% of ever married women in Bangladesh have experienced some kind violence by their current husband, 55% have reported some type of violence in the past 12 months, and 50% reported physical violence in their lifetime. Moreover, adolescents and youth between the ages of 10-24 years of age who constitute 55% of the FDMN population have specific sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs as well as psychosocial support (PS) that needs to be addressed.  

In response to this, UNFPA Bangladesh and the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) signed an agreement to implement the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) component of the World Bank Funded Emergency Multi-sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project (EMCRP) project.

The EMCRP aims to improve socioeconomic and disaster resilience, while at the same time improve basic facilities and community services, in the affected area target districts. The GBVof EMCRP is US $8 million of the overall project of US $ 165 million.

UNFPA focuses on the needs of all of people, not just women and girls, from all ages and social groups. A number of research and interventions have concluded that while adolescent girls lead a vulnerable, restricted life, the lives of their male counterparts involve their own challenges. They too show signs of melancholy due to distressing memories of violence, loss of loved ones and discrimination during their forced displacement. They too have been subjected to sexual violence including trafficking.

The EMCRP will provide GBV prevention and response services to women and men living in the Rohingya camps and the immediate host communities. Project interventions will have a special focus on young people, both boys and girls, to empower them and improve their skills.

As stated by Ms Eiko Narita, the Officer-in-Charge of UNFPA, “Adolescent boys must not be left behind in efforts to prevent GBV and promote the empowerment of girls. This project speaks not only to the importance of addressing GBV but also to the importance of harnessing the potential of young people in supporting local development.”

To elaborate, the main objectives of the assignment include:

  • assess the gender issues prevailing in the camp, including the stressors for gender-based violence, dynamics within the camps and with host communities relating to gender issues
  • based on the assessment, inform the interventions proposed under the project (all

components) so they are gender and socially inclusive (towards persons with disabilities, children, elderly, other vulnerable groups) and respond to the most urgent gender needs identified

  • design and implement a GBV prevention and response strategy and referral pathway for services

At the signing ceremony held at the LGED Bhaban, Ms. Swarna Kazi, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist and Task Team Leader of EMCRP, congratulated the Government of Bangladesh and UNFPA Bangladesh for the synergistic relations that ensured a smooth process in the development of this project. She noted that “LGED has a strong role to play in preventing and responding to GBV in all their structural interventions and the EMCRP is a step in the right direction to achieve this goal.”

The Chief Engineer of LGED, Mr Khalilur Rahman said he was delighted to sign this agreement with UNFPA and stated, “The LGED is open to trying new and innovative ideas to strengthen local development for the betterment of women and girls.”

Senior Officials from the LGED, UNFPA and the World Bank were also present at the signing ceremony.

Violence against women, or any one, impoverishes individuals, families and communities and reduces the economic development of a nation. In order to ensure substantive gender equality and equity strong will and leadership from the government is vital. Strengthening coordination between government and non-government efforts is crucial for preventing all forms of GBV.