We are at a critical tipping point in history. The Rohingya refugee crisis that we are responding to here has a particularly gendered nature due to the scale and severity of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) and restrictive socio-cultural norms that these women and girls have experienced and are exposed to. Women and girls’ needs, vulnerabilities, barriers, capacities and voices underscore the need to integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as central across all actions of the humanitarian response and in our work with the Bangladeshi host community.
The global theme for international women’s day for 2018 is #PressforProgress. Now, more than ever, we must press forward for progress on gender equality, going beyond boundaries and countries. This is a strong call to motivate whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
Refugee women and girls are experiencing gender barriers in the camps including restricted movement and access to humanitarian services and markets. Host community women and girls are also among the most marginalized and the first to experience access barriers to scarce and overstretched social services and jobs, as well as increased protection risks. Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is an urgent priority in the current crisis response. Men and boys must be active partners in this change process.
Rohingya refugee women and girls make up the majority (53%) of the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar. Yet, they are often not engaged in decision-making that impact their lives – they are resilient and are asking for an active role to play. Rohingya and host community women must be included in leadership positions and meaningfully represented in refugee camp management and host community governance structures. As experienced managers in homes and communities, women’s representation in site planning and management will provide insights on how to improve access to life saving services, information and activities, including prevention and response to gender-based violence. The entry point for women to be active agents of change in promoting their well-being, protection and agency is evident – women are already taking on leadership roles and amplifying the voices of other women and girls. They are demanding transferable skills for empowerment.
The ISCG, on behalf of the humanitarian community, reaffirms our commitment to support refugee and host community women and girls’ safety, dignity and empowerment and are coordinating efforts to address their needs and vulnerabilities. Towards this objective, we have worked with all the sectors to ensure the collection, analysis and use of disaggregated data based on gender, age and diversity and consultations with women and girls. Sectors have mainstreamed gender equality aspects into their 2018 Joint Response Plan. We are striving to ensure the leadership and meaningful and equal representation of women in refugee committees, as well as adequate number of female staff in the overall response. We have a long way to go and must continue to do more.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we commit to and call for a transformative shift in discriminatory gender norms and practices so that Rohingya women and girls are increasingly facilitated in addressing their past traumas and helped in accessing their potential.
View this original statement HERE.