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Women-led community resilience and sustainable livelihoods in Rohingya refugee camps

Emerging women Rohingya refugee leaders are equipped as sustainable livelihood trainers to build resilience and move beyond trauma.

Photo of India Meshack
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Known as one of the world's most persecuted minority groups, the Rohingya have been systematically denied education and livelihood opportunities. Now that the majority lives in refugee camps in Bangladesh, resources are scarcer than ever, but there are new opportunities for the community to mobilize, organize, and develop a sense of resilience and healing. By strengthening women's camp leadership for sustainable livelihoods, Center for Social Integrity and its partner Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development are equipping Rohingya refugee women to learn appropriate technologies drawn from permaculture and eco-village design methodologies to address day-to-day camp hardships around waste management, food security, crowding and monsoon-related risks including landslides, flooding, erosion and extreme heat. As organizations that understand the need for a community-driven approach, CSI and BASD are well-positioned to take leadership in these areas within the greater humanitarian response. From February to May 2018, CSI built a team of 15 Women Peace Builders. As most Rohingya women keep the purdah and have not worked outside of the home before, this phase required gradual recruitment and trust building. In a pilot starting in July 2018, the Women Peace Builders will receive ten days of training by BASD trainers on values, concepts and technical skills for sustainable living. Training topics will be tailored to address the specific social, economic and environmental hardships faced by refugee women in the camp setting. A 6-month weekly work plan will be developed by the trainees with CSI and BASD’s support to outline how they will apply the skills learned in the training. In December 2018 a summary of the pilot project will be prepared by CSI and BASD to scale and guide next steps. By 2019, our goal is to train 70 camp women and 10 host community women as sustainable livelihoods trainers who will capacitate up to 10,000 other women and youth.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The first tier of direct beneficiaries includes 70 Rohingya refugee women living in camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, along with 10 disadvantaged Bangladeshi women from the host community, who will go through Training of Trainers and ongoing mentorship to become leaders of sustainable livelihoods projects. Each of these trainers will also be guided through the process of implementing appropriate techniques such as ecobricking, compost, and vertical kitchen gardens to improve her shelter in the camp and produce income-generating produce and other items. The second tier of direct beneficiaries includes 8000 refugees and 2000 host community members who will attend trainings conducted by the network of 80 trainers over a two-year period. Indirect beneficiaries include the approximately 50,000 immediate family members of these participants, as well as the 1 million total refugees, who will benefit from learning about sustainability by observing the numerous demonstration sites.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Leading global humanitarian agencies have led the Rohingya emergency response since the recent exodus beginning in August 2017. However, CSI is the only organization in the camps that was founded and continues to be led by the Rohingya themselves, and the only group working within the response in a way that fosters community leadership for peace building and social change. We believe strongly in the importance of building community capacities unique to their circumstances, rather than the one size fits all systems that are implemented from the top down by other agencies. Slowly, the response is progressing beyond the acute emergency phase, and there is a need to apply a design-centered, community-based lens to inform the long-term response and ensure that the camps become more livable, safe and sustainable. CSI and BASD understand the potential for sustainable and appropriate design interventions to help the refugee community overcome at least some of the daily hardships they face.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

CSI - - is a community-driven, Rohingya-led organization working in four thematic areas of peace, protection, humanitarian response and education in Yangon and Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, and Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

CSI's founder, Aung Kyaw Moe, and many within CSI’s staff and stakeholder network come from the Rohingya community of northern Rakhine in Myanmar and have lived first-hand through the persecution of their community by the state. This personal connection inspired both CSI’s humanitarian intervention in Northern Rakhine State and our programmatic expansion to the refugee camps of Bangladesh. CSI’s leadership proves a key strength in granting us access to and trust within the communities we serve.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Within the Rohingya camp setting, peace is influenced by religious leaders, host-refugee community dynamics, and the greater political and human rights challenges facing the Rohingya. Prosperity is affected by Bangladeshi government restrictions that prohibit Rohingya from traveling out of the camps or working regular jobs. Thus the local economy within the camps is severely limited. However, NGOs are permitted to pay a small stipend to volunteers, and small income generating activities are not strictly regulated.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

As mentioned above, CSI's main partner for this project is Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development. BASD's local permaculture trainers will provide technical support throughout the project. CSI also collaborates and coordinates with leading UN agencies, INGOs, camp authorities, and other local Bangladeshi NGOs working in the various humanitarian sectors throughout the camps. CSI not only works alongside the community - CSI IS the community. Our camp team is comprised of 75 full-time paid refugee volunteers, 5 refugee coordinators, and two office staff who work to support the other 80.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The Rohingya refugees have been appropriately lauded for their resilience and desire to overcome trauma, gain access to education, and advocate for political change to bring an end to their status as stateless refugees. Despite widespread prejudice and apartheid conditions in Myanmar, the Rohingya refugee community remains focused on rehabilitating themselves in preparation for the prospect of eventual safe, voluntary, just and sustainable repatriation.

Geographic Focus

Kutupalong, Balukhali and Thangkhali camps in Cox's Bazar District, Bangladesh.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Alice Quagliato

Wonderful project! I think you are linking also "planet" to peace and prosperity, because of resilience against climate change and methods (like vertical gardens) to better produce food with less resources like land. If you can demonstrate this additional link, I think it would give an added value to your project!