About Maitree

Promoting women’s participation in peacebuilding and social cohesion

[1 December 2019 – 31 December 2021]

Overview

Displaced after pervasive and long-term discrimination and violent conflict, almost a million Rohingya people are now living in camps across Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. Among them, women and girls comprise the majority of these Rohingya populations.

In these camps, they have continued to face ongoing violence – such as intimate partner violence, child and forced marriage, rape, trafficking, etc. by men either from the Rohingya Community or in some cases, even the host community. Prior to this crisis, Cox’s Bazar was already struggling to address unfortunate levels of poverty which was 40% higher than the national average.  Given the price inflation and lower daily wages, as well as this crisis influx, this level has since been estimated to have risen to 50%. Besides, the standard of security in Cox’s Bazar has always been a challenge with porous borders and illicit activity, including trafficking and smuggling of drugs and people (notably women for the sex trade, and men for forced labour). During such a time, the Government services for host communities have stretched very thin. The influx has further increased pressure and tensions on local infrastructure. While initial expressions of anger by host communities against Rohingya people appear to be localised and sporadic, the frequency of violent incidents has increased significantly where the potential for further escalation remains real.

Given this context where the crime of all sorts has become routine, save for some communities and camps that have organised structures to provide legal assistance, many communities still remain in the dark. Many do not know who to approach to receive help in accessing justice or on matters of ambiguities around issues of application of local laws in camp situations given that there is no clear refugee law in Bangladesh. Thus, there is a high need for establishing proper structures of mediation and enhancing legal literacy among the populations since access to the police station and the courts is a time-consuming process.

Women and girls both in host and Rohingya communities are fragile and facing barriers to acquire the already scarce and overstretched social services and disrupted social relations and gendered norms. They are largely excluded from participation in public life and decision-making. They face multiple challenges in the form of discrimination and violence in their own societies and have little or no access to justice and social security. The lack of awareness and minimal literacy rate deprives many women of the host and Rohingya community of the opportunity to make proactive contributions to confidence-building and therefore play effective roles as agents for change and peacebuilding. However, there are Rohingya women leaders that are self-organising and forming their own groups in the camps to advocate for their rights and call for justice. UN Women has also been supporting women’s participation and leadership for the promotion of social harmony and prevention of community conflict and extremism in target Upazilas, these initiatives promote tolerance, cohesion and better relationship expanding and consolidating their networks wherever possible.

Objective

To promote social cohesion by empowering women from the Rohingya community located in Camp 3 and those living in the Raja Palong Union in the Upazila of Ukhia.

Target Groups

  1. Women from the Rohingya Community in Camp 3
  2. Host community in Raja Palong Union, Ukhiya, Cox Bazaar

Outcome

Women from the Rohingya community located in Rohingya Camp 3 and those living in the Raja Palong Union in the Upazila of Ukhiaas will become peacebuilders in their own community and be actively involved in decision making.

Project Strategies

The key strategies of the project will focus on strengthening the role of women from the Rohingya and host communities in promoting social cohesion and their effective involvement in peacebuilding. The strategies include:

  • Promoting greater understanding and knowledge gathering in relation to the drivers of conflict between the Rohingya community and the host communities, assessment on peace building and social cohesion, module on peace building and social cohesion for training and orientations will be developed based on learning on women’s role in peace building, social cohesion in these communities and nature and trends of gender-based violence and harmful practices in these communities;
  • Partnership building between Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta (JNUS) will be ensured by leveraging each entity’s distinctive experiences to achieve the respective objectives and results of the project. ASK will bring its decades of skills and expertise on the protection of human rights through community level activism, providing legal aid services to vulnerable communities and addressing gender and social issues such as GBV amongst the Rohingya and host communities. This will be combined with JNUS’s work focus on enhancing women and youth leadership and participation among the Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar in particular on the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism through building community resilience.
  • Mobilisation strategy for the project will involve the formation of groups and networks among these communities, the creation of Maitree apa’s meaning peace and mediation facilitators and their capacity building and empowerment through orientations on ways to run groups and function effectively, facilitate mediations, conduct community based awareness raising activities such as outdoor street drama, promotional songs and discussions on issues relating to GBV and harmful practices and conduct joint stakeholders meetings promoting social cohesion and peace building  These will be aimed to foster greater engagement and participation of women from both Rohingya and host communities and facilitate the process of finding common grounds for trust and peace building within which an umbrella network will be expected to emerge;
  • Capacity building for advancing peaceful alternatives will be ensured through orientation, trainings and joint stakeholder meetings that will strengthen the skills and abilities of women leaders (Maitree Apas) in both communities in transforming them into peace builders. These capacity building initiatives will focus on promoting critical thinking skills for dispelling rumours and fake news, questioning divisive or insightful rhetoric and stereotypes, developing positive narratives and overall promoting them as agents of change, active and supportive participants to positively impact peace-building.

Working Area

Cox’s Bazar – Rohingya Camp 3 and Raja Palong Union, Ukhia Upazila