Following the success of the first Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre (MPWC) in Cox’s Bazar—made possible with the incredible generosity of UN Women NC Australia donors—UN Women is establishing additional MPWCs, the second opening in late 2018.
The centres have hosted various delegates from around the world, allowing donors and supporters to observe and better understand the programs and services Rohingya women and girls receive through the MPWC. UN Women has developed several interactive training programs. Given the relatively low literacy levels among Rohingya women, trainings do not require them to read or write; a large part of their value is simply helping women to interact and bond with other women.
Some trainings teach women vocational pathways to sustainable livelihoods, from making and selling artisan crafts or clothing, to repairing mobile phones. Aside from vocational training, these centres also provide valuable education on nutrition, personal hygiene, human trafficking and family planning.
Trainings also touch upon deeper topics like self-empowerment, confidence-building, reducing violence at home and treating girls and boys equally. Many women have never been allowed to make decisions at home. Now they are taking classes on leadership, networking and mobilising to solve local problems and build more resilient communities.
With these programs becoming increasingly popular among the female refugees, the Government of Bangladesh has granted land to establish three additional MPWCs under UN Women Programs to support Rohingya women and girls in the camp. The centres will strengthen UN Women’s focus on supporting community cohesion amongst women from Rohingya refugees and host communities.
While MPWC programs progress, safety in the camps remains a priority. With this in mind, Bangladesh Police, the Superintendent of Police in Cox’s Bazar and UN Women launched a Women and Children Help Desk in March 2019. The service will provide facilities for trained female police officers to assist Rohingya women and children on a 24-hour basis.
The presence of female police officers in the camps is critical and comes in response to long-standing concerns raised about the safety and security issues of Rohingya women and children such as trafficking and domestic violence.
“We have not been able to approach anyone to report wrongdoings against us as women, however the existence of female police officers and the help desk now gives us confidence that the camps will be safer to live in, and law and order will be upheld,” said a Rohingya women leader.
Video: Sewing together pieces of hope
Zobaida arrived at Cox’s Bazar and became a tailoring instructor after fleeing Myanmar. In the clip below, Zobaida explains that she hopes to fund her children’s education with the wages she earns from teaching other Rohingya women.