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IOM opens first safe space for host communities' women in Cox’s Bazar

  • Published at 10:58 pm March 2nd, 2021
Women Shelter
Representational photo BIGSTOCK

An estimated 73% of married Bangladeshi women have experienced domestic violence in their life, says a 2015 study

To mitigate and reduce the risks of Gender-based Violence (GBV) in Cox’s Bazar, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday inaugurated its first Women and Girls Safe Space (WGSS) for host communities.

IOM launched WGSS with the support of its partner PULSE Bangladesh and funding the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the Government of Japan, said a press release.

An estimated 73% of married Bangladeshi women have experienced domestic violence in their life, according to a 2015 study.

Covid-19 has only exacerbated these risks, with a recent report highlighting a rise in Gender-based Violence (GBV), particularly intimate partner violence and child protection issues including child labour and child marriage across both Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities.

The international organization is already operating other WGSSs across nine refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, providing life-saving information and awareness-raising activities, as well as community-level outreach activities.

Between December 2020 and January 2021, IOM GBV teams provided group-based psychosocial support to 6,820 women and girls via these spaces.

Situated in Ratna Palong union of Ukhia Upazila in Cox’s Bazar, the new WGSS will serve as a place where women and girls can access resources and support to reduce the risk of GBV. The space will also act as a vital entry point for GBV survivors looking to access information on specialized services and referrals to health, legal and protection actors.

In its safe spaces, IOM and PULSE Bangladesh are providing a wide range of services, including individual case management. Women and girls can also access counselling and psychosocial support, recreational activities, information on safety planning, health, childcare guidance, legal rights, as well as non-food items (NFI).

“This is a space where women and girls can feel physically and emotionally safe and have the freedom to express themselves without fear of judgment from their peers,” said IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission Manuel Marques Pereira.

Furthermore, the centre will focus on skills development and the empowerment of women and girls by conducting a variety of training modules, such as on sewing, the production of sanitary pads, gardening or food processing, which will lead to livelihoods opportunities.

The training graduates will ultimately be engaged as peer trainers and support with coaching other host community members. 

Community volunteers will be trained to conduct community-based protection activities such as awareness-raising activities and referrals, which will further define the curriculum depending on the needs expressed by the women and girls themselves.

Acknowledging that male engagement is key in reducing the risks of GBV, IOM will be piloting in this new space innovative models of programming. 

The curriculum will include community days for men and boys and after-school classes on puberty, GBV and SRH for adolescents.

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