WPHF is looking to rapidly mobilize resources to support women’s organizations in Bangladesh to address the urgent challenges facing Rohingya refugee women. Dedicated funding in Bangladesh would focus on supporting the participation of Rohingya women across all phases of relief and self-recovery that is vital to building back Rohingya communities.
The Added Value of the WPHF
In Bangladesh, the WPHF aims to integrate gender equality measures across all sectors of the Rohingya refugee crisis response to ensure that women and girls have equitable access to relief, services and information – while transforming gender relations through the leadership and empowerment of women and girls in their role as decision makers, first responders and economic actors.
WPHF has supported 2 projects implemented by 4 women-led and women’s rights civil society organizations in Bangladesh:
- Light House, Programme for Helpless and Lagged Societies (PHALS), and Loving Care for Oppressed Societies (LoCOS) on a joint project to mobilize women and women’s groups to stem the spread of COVID-19 and address its gendered impacts, including GBV and trafficking.
- RW Welfare Society (RWWS) to sustain its work providing women in Cox’s Bazar with counselling, education classes and skills training, as well as to strengthen the skills of its Rohingya women-led volunteer network through trainings on policymaking, governance and project management.
Explore our Full List of WPHF COVID-19 Emergency Response Window Partners Around the WorldCOVID-19 Emergency Response Window Projects
In August 2017, Myanmar’s military intensified its campaign of atrocities against the ethnic Rohingya minority in Rakhine State, forcing women, men, and children to flee across the border to Bangladesh. To date an estimated 646,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed over the border into Cox’s Bazar. Rohingya refugees have been traumatized by the loss of their families, assets and livelihoods, and have reported escaping widespread atrocities of extrajudicial killings, mass rape, and destruction of property. The dramatic influx of Rohingya living in settlements across Cox’s Bazar is stretching the capacities of humanitarian agencies working to provide emergency shelter, access to clean water and sanitation, health-care, food delivery and education.
Approximately 53% of the Rohingya refugee population is composed of women and girls. Lactating mothers and pregnant woman are the two highest numbers of vulnerable groups within the population, and 16% of the total number of households are female headed. Many women who have reached Cox’s Bazar have reported systematic rape and sexual violence perpetrated by Myanmar forces. According to interviews with community leaders, every woman and girl in the Balukhali makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar is either a survivor or has personally witnessed multiple incidences of sexual assault, rape, gang‑rape, murder through mutilation or burning alive of a close family member or neighbor in Myanmar.
The Rohingya refugee crisis has also disproportionately affected women and girls by exacerbating pre-existing gender inequalities, gender-based violence and discrimination in Rohingya communities. Restriction on Rohingya women’s mobility is limiting their access to life-saving assistance, services and information.
Humanitarian partners in Cox’s Bazar are urgently seeking the engagement of more women’s organizations and female humanitarian workers on the ground. WPHF’s focus on supporting local organizations will contribute towards localization of the response, which will ensure greater sustainability and long-term effectiveness.
Rohingya women who had already been living in the registered camps from before the recent influx of refugees have been successfully mobilizing as leaders and decision makers. In the older registered refugee camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf, a formation of 35-40 women support groups has been critical in engaging women’s voices and decision-making roles in camp management. This is an indication that transformation of gender relations among Rohingya is both possible and key to effective response and to communities’ longer-term resilience.