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All women committees launched for Rohingya with IOM support
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, file photo, Rohingya women cry as they shout slogans during a protest rally to commemorate the first anniversary of Myanmar army's crackdown which lead to a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh, at Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. China is denying it blocked action by the United Nations on the issue of Muslim Rohingya refugees but says it doesn't believe sanctions or criticism of Myanmar's government will help resolve the crisis. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

All women committees launched for Rohingya with IOM support

Dhaka, Sept 1 – To give Rohingya refugee women a platform to raise their voice, access to information and obtain referrals for service, “all women’s committees” were launched yesterday at the refugee camp with support from International Organization of Migration (IOM), said a press release of IOM.A total of 110 women are now active in those committees, including 10 with disabilities, said the release.According to Megan Denise Smith, who leads IOM’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Unit in Cox’s Bazar, women pointed to four key barriers preventing them from being represented in community decision-making: access to information, participation in camp activities, safety and membership of institutions.
“Many of the public spaces where decisions were being made – such as mosques – were closed to women,” she said. Rather than attempting to gain entry into exclusively male-dominated structures, the women’s committees were formed from scratch as something new.
Designed to include women in local decision-making, each committee also designated focal points who became ‘specialists’ in a given area, such as health, GBV, water, sanitation or combatting human trafficking.Specialists were trained in their given areas and liaised with humanitarian organizations. Slowly, word got out about the group and more women came forward as volunteers.
Despite their growing traction with women, the reaction to the committees from men was mixed at first. According to Morium Khatun, one of the leaders of the committee, some male leaders and husbands were mistrustful or openly hostile to the groups.
“As the community benefits became clearer, men took to the idea and many now support the committees,” she said.
Rumpa Dey, an IOM GBV coordinator, pointed to a recent example as evidence. “A woman was recently having trouble in a conflict involving her husband and another male member of the community. She came to the women’s committee and asked them to intervene. That demonstrates a degree of acceptance that would have been unheard of a few months ago,” she noted.
In a conservative culture where women are expected to remain home, the women’s committees also offer a rare opportunity to leave the house. “Many Rohingya families are very traditional and some women basically never leave home. The women’s committees gave them a reason to become active in their community and become involved in issues other than those directly related to their household and family,” Dey added. – UNB