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Tuesday, 26th January 2021 - Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of the Government of Bangladesh opened a new Women Friendly Space (WFS), as part of the Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Response Project. This WFS will serve 6,500 women and girls from the host community of Ukhiya Upazila, Haldiapalong Union, Sikdarpara village in Cox's Bazar.

Funded by the World Bank, the WFS is a safe space, locally known as “Shanti Khana” where women and girls can socialize, re-build, and strengthen their social networks, and receive social support, information and services relating to women's health and reproductive rights. 

“Thanks to our generous donor, the World Bank, in collaboration with LGED, UNFPA is scaling up services for women and girls from the host communities, as well as the Rohingya. The place where we are gathered today will be essential to integrate sexual and reproductive health services and to strengthen gender-based violence response services for women and girls at risk. The space will include the most vulnerable and marginalized women, adolescents, girls and youth as active contributors to the empowerment and wellbeing of their communities” said Ms. Roselidah Raphael, Head of the UNFPA Sub-office in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.


The event took place in the WFS compound and was inaugurated by the Project Director of the LGED, the District Commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, the Deputy Secretary of the Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC).  Representatives from the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), and the NGO’s Mukti Cox’s Bazar and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) were also in attendance.

“Every day, hundreds of girls in Bangladesh are married off before they reach adulthood. Being forced to child marriage often leads these girls to drop out of school or to stop work, thus reducing their opportunities in life” Mr. Javed Karim, Project Coordinator of the LGED affirmed. He continued to say, “This WFS will be essential in continuing our effort to eliminate gender-based violence, while addressing the root causes of GBV, promoting life-skills development and empowerment for girls to reach equal treatment and equal rights”.


Mr. Shamsud Douza, Deputy Secretary of the Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) addressed the audience saying, “To increase awareness and knowledge about civil rights, we welcome this WFS and the further expansion of these spaces for women and girls. This is a space where women and girls can openly talk, share their problems, feelings and thoughts.”

The United Nations umbrella in Cox’s Bazar also participated in the event, the Intersector Coordination group (ISCG), expressed their appreciation for the opening of the new WFS. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased safety and security risks and has particularly exacerbated pre-existing gendered risks, these women friendly spaces are more essential than ever”, said Mr. Talukder Abu Naim, field coordinator of ISCG, congratulating the work of UNFPA, donors and partners.

Ms. Swarna Kazi, Task Team Leader of the Emergency Multi-sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project and Sr. Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank, shared her thoughts, stating, “Under the Emergency Multi-sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project, the World Bank has expanded its efforts to address GBV risks by investing in increasing access to services for women and girls to ensure their health and well-being, including building new Women Friendly Spaces. We recognize the value, potential and positive impact on reducing GBV and protecting the mental and physical health of women and girls”.

The event included voices from the community, where they shared how GBV prevention, psychosocial support and sexual and reproductive health and rights are crucial for the dignity, safety and resilience of vulnerable communities.

“We are happy that this new facility opened. It will be a nice place for us to gather, talk in confidentiality, frankness and in a respectful way, and I am sure other girls in the community will know about the facility and they will come as well” shared an adolescent girl from the community in Sikdarpara Village.

“We are hopeful that these services will continue in the community, and we are very thankful that UNFPA and partners have come to our area to serve the women and girls here. These services are essential for us to have a space to share and learn” a WFS volunteer eagerly asserted.



The event was held in compliance with COVID-19 preventative measures.

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