Women at the Forefront of COVID-19

Containment in Cox’s Bazar

The Women’s Committee meets in the world’s largest refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: IOM Bangladesh/ 2020

Cox’s Bazar – The unprecedented spread of COVID-19 has not spared the world’s displaced communities. In Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, the largest refugee settlement in the world, women leaders are on the frontline responding to the deadly outbreak’s impact on their communities.  

In camp settings, misinformation about the disease can spread quickly and hinder women and girls from seeking essential health services. The Women’s Committee – which comprises more than 100 female Rohingya refugee and host community members – is on a mission to change this.  

As the health crisis persists, they are playing an imperative role in curbing the spread of the disease in their community through educating others about how to stay safe. 

The global spike in gender-based violence experienced often by women struggling in isolation due to COVID-19 is also a risk in Cox’s Bazar. The women have taken an active role in shifting the cultural acceptance of male violence against women. They receive training on how to ensure that protection measures are implemented across all aspects of daily life.

The group also contributes to camp management and humanitarian programming in Cox’s Bazar in which the women participate in providing food and nutrition, shelter management and sanitation services in their community.  

A COVID-19 awareness raising session run by Rohingya women at the Khushir-Ghor Women and Girl’s Safe Space in Cox’s Bazar. Photo: IOM Bangladesh / 2020

Not only are Women’s Committee members making their voice heard in the community but are dedicating themselves to elevating the voices of others through the Women’s Participation Project.

The Women’s Participation Project began in 2015 as part of the 'Safe from the Start' Initiative, managed by the Global Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Support team at IOM HQ. With the objective to improve women’s participation and representation in displacement, mainstreaming prevention and mitigation of GBV in camp management operations, the Women's Participation Project has been implemented in 9 countries in the last five years including Ecuador, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria.

To find out more on the Women’s Participation Project, visit the Women in Displacement Platform. 

This article was written by Hanindha Vidyasti, IOM Communications Intern for the Department of Operations and Emergencies.