[Cox’s Bazar] International Women’s Day March 8th, 2020
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh — Today is International Women’s Day, a day to take stock of the progress made on women’s rights and empowerment. This year is pivotal for advancing gender equality worldwide as it marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and other key moments in the feminist movement.
Around the world and through the decades, feminists and women’s rights advocates have contributed to the global struggle for gender equality, regardless of their age, country, religion, ethnicity, race, background or gender.
On this International Women’s, we must all come together to take action to achieve gender equality in this generation – launching UN Women’s multi-generational campaign, Generation Equality, which brings together past and present advocates. In light of this, this year’s global theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”.
The local theme chosen in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, for International Women’s Day 2020 is Realizing All Women’s Rights /সকল নারীর অধিকার বাস্তবায়ন কধর/ Beg Maifuandor Hoq Khiyal Goron. Globally, as well as in Bangladesh and in Rohingya Refugee communities, women and girls still do not enjoy the same rights as men and boys. Hence, on 8th March 2020 we will jointly come together to shed light on the issues and challenges, celebrate the progress made around gender equality and galvanize efforts to uphold the rights of women and girls to live a life free of violence and discrimination. Together we want to mobilize and create collective solidarity to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.
The Rohingya community is highly conservative in their gender norms and practices, thus effectively reaching Rohingya women and girls and providing them with the needed services and information has been an enormous challenge. The severe sexual and gender-based violence that they have experienced has kept many of them withdrawn. Women and girls in the host community have been experiencing additional barriers to access scarce and overstretched services, such as health, and increase in tension in their households and community, including increase in gender- based violence. Yet women and girls are not merely vulnerable victims. They play a key role in increasing the resilience of families and communities. Rohingya and Bangladeshi host community women leaders have self-organized and formed their own networks to advocate for their rights and call for justice. Local, national and international women are working as Government officials, police officers, elected leaders, health workers, volunteers, and humanitarians among others.
The Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group (GiHA WG), co-chaired by UN Women and UNHCR, is coordinating the efforts to mark and celebrate International Women’s Day. The GiHA WG has over 200 members from MoWCA, UN agencies, INGOs and NGOs including women- rights organizations. The GiHA WG leads the coordination on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the response and has a key focus on field level monitoring and consultations with women and girls, to regularly identify gender issues at the camp and host community level and to jointly address these including through advocacy. Last year, the GiHA WG held consultations with over 800 Rohingya women and girls across 16 camps to understand their demands and challenges in relation to community representation and rolled out UN Women’s Rohingya Women Leadership Training reaching over 1,000 women. This led to the formation of an umbrella network of Rohingya women leaders representing their grassroot networks from across all camps who know regularly convene on to discuss key issues, challenges, demands and action needed to promote the empowerment of women and girls.
A number of events are planned by the GiHA WG this year and its members at both camp and host community level and in Cox’s Bazar. “Refugee Women Speak Up” is a planned consultation between Rohingya women leaders and Camp-in-Charges (CiCs) held across sixteen camps, to discuss the challenges they face in serving their community and to identify key actions needed in their camps to support women and girls.
A Women’s Networking Event is being held in the evening to celebrate international, national, local and Rohingya women leaders who have made important contributions to the fight against gender inequalities. Guest speakers will include Flora Macula, Women’s Rights Activist, ex- refugee and Head of Sub-Office, UN Women in Cox’s Bazar, Rachel Wolff, Head of Response at World Vision Head in CXB who recently won the Humanitarian of The Year Award, Sheuly Sharma, Executive director of Jago Nari Unnayan Sangsta, Shamima Akther Jahan, Assistant CiC, and Razia Sultana, Lawyer and human rights activist, founder and Chairperson of RW Welfare Society. The event will be open by Anita Rani Saha Clinical Psychologist & Regional Coordinator for the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. The event is supported by UN Women, ISCG Gender Hub, WFP, IOM, CARE and World Vision. A Film Festival highlighting Bangladeshi movies and documentaries on gender-based issues will be held at the Kolatoli Cultural Center from March 10th to 12th, with support from UNHCR, BRAC, CARE and WFP. The Festival will open with a screening of ‘Under Construction’ by acclaimed female film director Rubaiyat Hossain and close with a cultural show.
Over eighty other International Women’s Day advocacy and awareness events are planned, both in camps and in host communities by international, national and local organizations working in the response.
For media queries to the GiHA WG, please contact:
Marie Sophie Pettersson