“We Need to Write Our Own Names”: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Rohingya Humanitarian Response in Cox’s Bazar

Authored by: Emma Pearce

Categories: Global Public Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Economic Recovery, Human Development, Migration, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Country: Bangladesh
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2020
Citation: Pearce, Emma. "'We Need to Write Our Own Names': Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Rohingya Humanitarian Response in Cox’s Bazar." Women’s Refugee Commission. January 2020.

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Executive Summary

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are considered central to an effective, inclusive, and rights-based response in crisis, conflict, and natural disasters. Understanding gender roles and power dynamics in an affected community, including intersections with other identity factors such as age, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic class, is critical to ensure that humanitarian programs and activities meet the needs of women, men, girls, boys, and other groups in the affected community and “do no harm” by inadvertently reinforcing inequality, marginalization, and exclusion.

WRC’s gender operational review found commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment across the Rohingya humanitarian response. A range of strategies has been implemented early in the response targeting women and girls, with a particular focus on responding to and preventing GBV. While not consistently implemented, there is some evidence of positive outcomes from engaging men and boys in these activities, with this group demonstrating a willingness to learn about gender issues, and reducing the risk of backlash within the community.

The change in social norms required to foster Rohingya women’s leadership will require longer-term approaches, driven by the community itself. As such, fledgling women’s groups in the camps and their work for the whole Rohingya community provide promising models for transformative change.