Monday, 08 March, 2021

IOM counseling Rohingya women on childbirth, security and health

Published on: 11:21 pm - Sunday | September 1, 2019


International Organization for Migration (IOM) formed committees with 110 women including 10 with disabilities to raise awareness among Rohingya women on sensitive issues related to childbirth, security and health.

The women’s committees were launched as a pilot project in September 2018 to provide a forum for Rohingya women to voice their concerns, access information and obtain referrals for services, said a press release.

Designed to include women in local decision-making, each committee also designated focal points who became ‘specialists’ in a given area, such as health, gender-based violence or GBV, water and sanitation and combating human trafficking.

Morium Khatun, IOM’s committee member, recalls the past when fear kept her friends silent about sensitive issues like childbirth, security and health – even when the challenges were life threatening.

“Women didn’t feel comfortable going to a male committee or local leader, and when they did – their concerns were often ignored,” she said.

Khatun decided to take matters into her own hands by stepping up as a possible leader after she had heard about the IOM’s initiative.

“I’ve always been active in trying to help friends and neighbors. But this was new. It gave us a formal group to meet and attract members,” she said.

According to Khatun, some male leaders and husbands were mistrustful or openly hostile to the groups.

Rumpa Dey, an IOM Gender-Based Violence (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.

According to Khatun, security is also becoming an increasingly pressing issue for Rohingya women in a community wracked by unemployment.

However, women pointed to four key barriers preventing them from being represented in community decision-making: access to information, participation in camp activities, and safety and membership of institutions, said Megan Denise Smith, leader of IOM’s GBV unit in Cox’s Bazar.