Gender-Based Violence in Myanmar: “The safe house is a lifeline for women who have lost hope.”
The Thandaunggyi Women’s Group helps survivors of gender-based violence in southeast Myanmar. In the shadow of the coup and widespread conflict that has swept the country, we talk to the women who sustain these essential services.
Two months after the opening of mental health and psychosocial support services at the Health Post in Camp 1W of Kutupalong Refugee Camp supported by Community Partners International (CPI), dozens of Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh host community members have sought assistance. Health Post psychologist Rahima Preety talks about the challenges they face and how she works to help them.
Moments after the health post’s doors opened for the very first time on Thursday, December 2, 2021, eight-year-old Omme came in with her father Abul. She was suffering from abdominal pain and fever. The doctor on duty saw Omme immediately and provided care. “Everyone is helpful here,” remarked Abul. “The doctor listened carefully and gave my daughter medicine. I am happy.”
In late August, Community Partners International (CPI) and local partner Green Hill broke ground on a new health post in Camp 1W of Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Scheduled to open by the end of October, the health post will offer free primary health care services to Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities in the surrounding area.
In Myanmar, violence against women and girls is a silent emergency. It takes many forms: domestic and intimate partner violence perpetrated within families; unwanted touching and sexual harassment on public transport; and violence occurring in conflict zones where women are particularly vulnerable. In a national survey carried out in 2015 and 2016, one in seven women in Myanmar reported that they had experienced violence since the age of 15. The real number is likely to be many more.
On World Refugee Day 2019, representatives from the Rohingya refugee community in Camp 1W of Kutupalong Extension Site in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, gathered at an event organized by Community Partners International (CPI) and the Rokeya Foundation to honor the spirit and courage of the millions of people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
Meredith Walsh (back row, fourth from right), CPI Board Chair Dr. Tom Lee (second row, third from left) and CPI Board Member Dr. Adam Richards (second row, second from left) with CPI Bangladesh staff and Community Health Volunteers in Cox's Bazar in June 2019. Photo: Reza Shahriar Rahman for Community Partners International
Meredith Walsh, Community Partners International (CPI)’s Country Director in Bangladesh, reflects on the last 20 months working to support Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
I arrived in Bangladesh in early November 2017 to help Community Partners International (CPI) set up operations in Cox’s Bazar. Just over two months earlier, this small sliver of land squeezed between Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, became the world’s largest refugee camp virtually overnight.
Community Partners International (CPI) supported and participated in community gatherings in Myanmar and Bangladesh to mark International Women’s Day 2019 and emphasize the importance of building a gender-balanced world. In the communities where CPI works, women and girls are under-represented and continue to strive for equal rights and equitable access to opportunities and services. Violence against women and girls remains a significant problem, though often hidden by stigma and cultural norms. These gatherings were held to raise awareness of the continuing challenges faced by women and girls in these communities, to celebrate progress where it has been achieved, and to re-affirm the commitment to building gender equality.
CPI Engages in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in Myanmar and Bangladesh
In support of the international campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, Community Partners International (CPI) is engaging in events and activities with partners and communities in Myanmar and in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until December 10 (Human Rights Day). During these 16 Days of Activism, CPI is working closely with communities to raise awareness and understanding of sexual and gender-based violence, promote rights and protections, and provide information about care and support needs and options for survivors.
Each month, community outreach teams from Community Partners International (CPI) and the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) travel together for two weeks across Kayin State, southeast Myanmar, promoting sexual and reproductive health, and helping to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. So far this month, these teams have visited nine villages in Kawkareik Township.