IOM opens ‘safe space’ for women in Cox’s Bazar

FE ONLINE REPORT | Tuesday, 2 March 2021

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has inaugurated its first Women and Girls Safe Space (WGSS) with aim to mitigate and reduce the risks of Gender-based Violence (GBV) in Cox’s Bazar.

IOM with the support of its partner PULSE Bangladesh and funding the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the government of Japan inaugurated the facility on Tuesday, according to a press release.

Referring to a 2015 study that said an estimated 73 per cent of married Bangladeshi women have experienced domestic violence in their life, IOM added that Covid-19 has only exacerbated these risks.

A recent report highlighted 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, it added.

Additionally, the pandemic has also impacted their safe access to GBV and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.

IOM already operates 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. And, 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 in the Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar district, this new WGSS will serve as a place where women and girls can access resources and support to reduce the risk of GBV.

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.

“We hope that this space will eventually become a women-led multipurpose community centre and evolve depending on the needs of women and girls and the wider community.”

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 livelihood opportunities.

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