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Case Study: Bangladesh - Funding for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Humanitarian Programming, June 2020

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Overview of the case study

Since August 2017, an estimated 745,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, fleeing the systematic discrimination and violence of Myanmar security forces. Including the Rohingya from previous diasporas, 52 per cent of the over 900,000 Rohingya refugees in the camps are women and girls. Some 646,000 women and girls, from both the refugee and the host communities, are in need of assistance. In Cox’s Bazar, many Rohingya women and girls are often confined to their shelters, which limits their access to humanitarian relief, services, information, markets and education. These restrictions on their freedoms and movement are in place due to both pre-existing gender dynamics and sociocultural norms that have been exacerbated by the crisis and due to high levels of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) women and girls experienced in Rakhine, and which is still prevalent now in the camps to shield women and girls from harassment, abduction and sexual violence. Domestic violence, rape, early, forced and child marriage, polygamy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, sexual exploitation, abuse, harassment and femicide as well as limited economic self-reliance, education, leadership and decision-making opportunities for women and girls are prevalent.

Yet, Rohingya women and girls are not merely vulnerable victims. They play a key role in increasing the resilience of families and communities. Family structures have changed, and all persons in the household now face new duties and must engage in new activities and this is giving space for new gender roles to emerge. There are Rohingya women leaders, including survivors of cconflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, that are selforganizing and forming their own groups in the camps to advocate for their rights and call for justice. Humanitarian responses often miss opportunities to transform sociocultural gender norms and relations through the leadership and empowerment of women and girls, as well as by promoting positive forms of masculinities – notwithstanding the fact that these are key to a right-based and effective response and to communities’ longer-term resilience and social cohesion. Leveraging women’s participation and leadership capacities is not only a way to ensure humanitarian efforts respond to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of affected communities – whether women, men, girls or boys – but also a strategic investment in whole community resilience.

This case study reviews the current context for funding for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls (GEEWG) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, including the levels of funding requested, funding received and the consequences of the funding gap. The study relies on funding reported to: 1) the Financial Tracking Service (FTS) of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which includes the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Gender with Age Marker (GAM) and earlier Gender Marker, and 2) data on funding flows from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) using their Gender Equality Marker (GEM). The study specifically focuses on funding for women and girls, though the findings are very applicable for GEEWG writ large, as the research found little programming that explicitly targeted gender equality more broadly.