IOM Strengthens Gender-Based Violence Response in Cox’s Bazar amidst COVID-19

Submitted by ajkanesan on Tue, 12/29/2020 - 11:18

Cox’s Bazar – Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of Gender-based Violence (GBV) for Rohingya and Bangladeshi women and girls already was alarmingly high in Cox´s Bazar, Bangladesh. Since the onset of COVID-19, evidence suggests there has been a surge in rates of intimate partner and domestic violence in both Rohingya and host communities.

Due to mobility restrictions and protection risks, women and girls have struggled to access lifesaving GBV and sexual and reproductive health services. Furthermore, the lack of socio-economic opportunities has strained those already at-risk, such as single female-headed households.

Despite these challenges, several innovative tools and strategic partnerships have enabled IOM to adapt its GBV programming to the unique and ever-evolving context of the pandemic.

Building on IOM’s Institutional Framework for Addressing GBV in Crises (GBViC) — rolled out in Cox’s Bazar in 2019 — and its accompanying Action Plan, IOM’s GBV team has managed to successfully ensure the continuity of face-to-face individual case management services. IOM has also maintained its operation of 10 Women and Girls Safe Spaces across nine camps and the emergency safe shelter for GBV survivors, in accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines.

As part of commitments set out in the GBViC Action Plan to equip frontline staff and volunteers with the appropriate knowledge and skills to support survivors of GBV, IOM conducted this month a four-day training on Clinical Management of Rape and Intimate Partner Violence for 50 health care providers. 

Another training on GBV core concepts, safe referrals, counter-trafficking, Psychological First Aid and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse was organized from June to October for 345 clinical and non-clinical staff.

During the pandemic, the Women’s Participation Project –implemented in Cox's Bazar since 2018– has continued to provide a space for consultations with women and girls despite the camps’ numerous protection challenges. Through this project, the Women’s Committee has been empowered and supported women to participate in decision-making structures, ensuring their needs and capacities are met. The initiative is currently being replicated in four camps, with the goal of better understanding how women’s participation in governance camp structures could contribute to mitigating and reducing the risks of GBV.

IOM recently launched the “Self-Care and Coping Skills in Stressful Situations” booklet, developed for Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities, accompanied by audio recordings. The booklet covers topics, such as coping strategies for reducing stress, key information on protection and GBV services, self-care exercises and COVID-19 prevention measures.

Regular sessions on using the booklet are conducted in the Women and Girls Safe Spaces and at the community level. Meaningful engagement enables participants to voice their safety concerns and supports humanitarian actors in their risk-mitigation efforts. Through a participatory approach, women can define their own risks, capacities, and community outreach strategies.

Rehena is one of the twelve female community leaders who recently attended a training of trainers on the topic, and who is now sensitizing other women on healthy coping mechanisms. “I feel fortunate to have been selected for this training and consider it my duty to pass on this valuable information to other women so they can too be relieved of their daily stress,” Rehena said.

“While important efforts have been made to eliminate violence against women and girls, the implementation of GBV activities remains a significant challenge. It is critical that women and girls remain active participants in the process of identifying protection and GBV risks and solutions,” explained Chissey Mueller, IOM’s Protection Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

“During the pandemic, the rights and dignity of survivors continue to be at the heart of our response.”

As part of UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against GBV, celebrated from 25 November to 10 December under the theme “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”, IOM is co-organizing several interagency events focused on GBV prevention and response in emergencies.

Together with its implementing partner PULSE, IOM is also organizing several field activities focused on GBV risk mitigation, prevention and response, as well as events celebrating women’s skills and accomplishments, all in line with COVID-19 prevention measures.

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac, Tel: +880 1880 084 048, Email: mchiriac@iom.int, or Tarek Mahmud, Tel: + 880 1752 380 240, Email: tmahmud@iom.int, at IOM Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar. 

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in Somalia

Submitted by ajkanesan on Tue, 12/29/2020 - 11:47

Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations affecting communities globally. Knowing no social, physical or economic bounds, GBV deteriorates the health, dignity and autonomy of its victims, and creates a culture of silence. Due to unequal power relations, harmful social practices and traditional patriarchal structures, women and girls are disproportionately affected by GBV compared to men. Violence can happen to any woman in any country, regardless of culture, religion or economic status. Gender inequality, which reinforces harmful gender norms are key drivers of violence against women. According to UNFPA1, one in every three women worldwide will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. These odds, coupled with natural disasters and conflicts, leave displaced communities in Somalia extremely vulnerable to GBV. In camp or camp-like settings, women, girls and groups-at-risk often have less access to lifesaving information and to participate in camp-life due to different factors, such as existing unequal power dynamics or cultural barriers that restrict their movements. Meaningful, inclusive and representative participation in decision-making and camp governance structures is imperative for good camp management in ensuring that the risks, needs and capacities of women, girls and groups-at-risk are considered and prioritised. This is also essential in improving humanitarian response, community engagement and support, mitigating GBV and ultimately to ensure accountability towards affected populations. 

To raise awareness and advocate globally for the end of violence against women, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign kicks off annually on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10th of December, Human Rights Day. This annual international campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, with the international community and humanitarian agencies actively participating in advocating and highlighting the importance of this campaign. This year, in Somalia, the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV campaign kicked off in Kismayo, Dollow and Baidoa displacement camps with support from the Women Participation Project (WPP) and Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM). Throughout the 16 days, IOM staff recorded attendance of over 2,000 participants, with a third of the participants being male. 

“We want Somali women to be empowered. The trainings and awareness campaigns helped women know where they can report their cases, so that something can be done about them. The women feel encouraged to help themselves,” shared Rahmo Sheikh Abdi, from the Buula Isaaq IDP site in Kismayo.  

Members of the Women’s Group in each location were directly involved in the organisation of the events, which included singing, dancing and theatrical performances. The songs and dances focused on their power to overcome the challenges they face as women and invited other members of the community to join the initiative. Awareness campaigns were opened to all community members within the IDP sites. Trainings on advocacy were aimed at both men and women in Camp Management Committees (CMC) and women’s groups in order to make sure information reached all parts of the community.  

 

The global theme this year was Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent and Collect, highlighting the need to increase funding to prevent GBV. With less than 1% of global humanitarian funding going towards GBV prevention and response globally, it is essential to highlight this need, to ensure survivors receive the services they need, focus on preventing GBV in communities and to collect data that improves services for GBV. In line with the campaign, community members wore orange shirts, scarves and caps with 16 Days of Activism Against GBV messages embedded. 16 designs of stickers were also distributed, one message for each day of the campaign, tackling issues of GBV and women empowerment. Some of the messages included were “Our girls’ matter. End child marriage,” and “Educate men and boys on how to prevent violence against girls and women.” Written in Somali, the stickers were distributed at the start of each day, and the participants were encouraged to display them in community centres, health clinics, schools and water stations, to raise awareness amongst the wider community.