Writer: Adviti Mishra brings light to Rohingya Refugees and the aforesaid project and the Ayesha Abed
The rampant ethnic violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State has forced more than 1.2 million Rohingyas to seek refuge in surrounding countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, among others, with a staggering number of 932,000 in Bangladesh itself. After violence broke out in the Rakhine state in 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Cox’s Bazaar, one of the poorest villages in southeast Bangladesh, making it the largest refugee camp in the world.
Conditions in the Camp are poor with 11 sq m per person. More than half the refugees are children. Single women fear for their safety. In spite of the sudden inflow of refugees that could be a potential burden on the government, the natives of Cox Bazaar have greeted the “landless people” with open arms. However, despite the warm welcome, the Rohingyas,
especially women, face various economic problems.
The income generated by their husbands isn’t enough. In order to sustain their families, women have to work too. However, there is a dearth of economic opportunities for women in the refugee camps. “My husband isn’t with us, so I have to work and take care of my two children and it’s very important for me to find an income. There are costs I have to pay in
sending them to school.”, says Renumaru Begum, who used to struggle to keep her family together. This was until a new Project was set up for benefitting financially women of both the host country and the refugees.
The aforesaid project was started by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), in association with the Ayesha Abed Foundation. It aims to equip both Bangladeshi and refugee women with skills in various crafts that they can put to use to earn money for
themselves. Around 500 women, out of which more than half are refugees, are taught how to sew embroidery pieces by hand for clothing, which are then sold at Aarong, one of the popular Bangladeshi retail stores that was launched by BRAC (Building Resources Across Communities) to provide a source of income for the rural women. The program pays a salary during the six month training programme that has benefitted many widowed or single mothered refugees who are struggling to earn money for their families.
Though this project had been started in February, it has already become successful. Around eighteen subcentres have been opened to allow an increasing number of women to become self-reliant through craftwork. “I’m very happy to find this opportunity. It makes my struggles easier. I can improve my skills, earn and provide a stable income for my family.” Say many refugee women who have now turned their lives around after the bloodshed and emotional turmoil they had to face back in Myanmar.
Such projects that work on a self-sustaining model are slowly gaining popularity. This is but a small start in providing long term succour to the Rohingya refugees. However, this Project has the potential to scale up, and even get extended to other Refugee problems across the world.