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Women Who Dare: Exploring experiences of participation among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Citation: Sanchez Bean, María Celeste (2021) Women Who Dare: Exploring experiences of participation among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. [Discussion or working paper]

RLI WPS No. 55.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Gender norms in the Rohingya community dictate that women’s role is confined to the domestic sphere. As Rohingyas attribute these norms to religion, they are largely seen as immutable. Infringement of these norms can be severely punished, not only with violence but also with loss of individual and family honour. However, defying all odds many Rohingya refugee women in Bangladesh are active participants in camp governance spaces created by humanitarian organizations. This paper explores how these women experience participation in their own narratives. It discusses women’s motivations, their strategies to navigate gender norms within their families and communities, and their means to reconcile their new roles with personal and collective values. Women’s participation in the governance of refugee camps is greatly shaped by humanitarian organizations. Ever since the adoption of a human rights approach to humanitarian action, most organizations have made extensive commitments to participation and gender equality. However, neither concept is easily harmonized with the humanitarian principle of neutrality. Moreover, enduring humanitarian images of women as essentially vulnerable illustrate the contradictions between commitments to gender equality and disempowering practices that neglect the role of women as agents of change. This case study provides a strong argument to acknowledge these tensions as a first step to advance discussions in academic and practitioners’ domains.

Creators: Sanchez Bean, María Celeste and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Sociology & Anthropology
Keywords: participation, gender, refugee, Rohingya, camp management
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Collections: Refugee Law Initiative
  • 11 March 2021 (published)


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