For Rohingya women and girls sheltering as refugees in Cox’s Bazar, the shadow of gender-based violence (GBV) is never far away. While many have directly experienced or witnessed traumatic incidents during the recent violence in northern Rakhine state, the precarious circumstances and lack of protection that they experience as refugees continues to expose them to a high risk of GBV and human trafficking. Among Rohingya communities, as in many communities in Myanmar and elsewhere, stigma and cultural norms can hinder discussion and acknowledgment of these issues, making prevention and response more challenging. Survivors of GBV often have little or no access to support, and awareness-raising and prevention efforts can face resistance. Community Partners International (CPI) is working in partnership with Rohingya communities in Cox’s Bazar to find creative and innovative ways to break the silence around GBV, and support community initiatives that help ensure women and girls are protected from violence.
CPI is supporting local partner, HELP Cox’s Bazar (HELP), to train and support 10 Rohingya ‘GBV volunteers’ to conduct awareness-raising sessions in Kutupalong Camp (Camp 5). The volunteers – six females and four males – conduct sessions with groups of women, men, adolescent girls and adolescent boys, in which they use fictional storytelling to facilitate dialogue on domestic violence, trafficking, and harassment, and to inform communities of services available to GBV survivors. The volunteers are also trained in how to respond to a GBV disclosure and to confidentially refer survivors for further care. In addition to awareness sessions, the volunteers conduct door-to-door visits, where they are able to have deeper one-on-one conversations to build trust in communities and support increased access to services.
The project also includes the use of creative arts to share information and promote community dialogue on gender topics. In June 2018, a group of traditional folksingers will travel around the camp performing songs, with lyrics written with support from CPI and HELP, to promote peace in the household and to reduce stigma of GBV. Additionally, the project is partnering with a local production company to develop a short animated film to reduce the stigma of GBV and raise awareness about available services for GBV survivors. The film can be loaded onto tablets and shared door-to-door with communities.
The project is also launching one-on-one mentoring and weekly emotional support groups for adolescent girls. The groups will include discussion on topics such as self-care and emotional well-being, as well as recreational activities. Within the camps, adolescent girls have been identified as one of the hardest-to-reach groups due to community norms which often restrict girls’ movement outside of the house. The mentoring and group activities are meant to increase adolescent girls’ access to information, provide a forum for discussion, and build solidarity among group members.
In addition to these activities, CPI has trained 44 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) on GBV concepts, guiding principles for GBV response, and how to inform communities of services available for GBV survivors. In August, the project plans to work with four male and four female CHVs who will serve as “GBV focal points,” conducting group GBV awareness sessions and door-to-door visits.
Through these approaches, CPI is working to empower Rohingya communities to address gender-based violence and promote a safe and supportive environment for women, girls and all refugees living in Cox’s Bazar.