Bangladesh + 1 more

New language guidance to promote women's rights in Rohingya refugee camps: Updated glossary supports response with gender-focused language advice

DANBURY, Conn., USA – 3 October 2018. Translators without Borders (TWB), in collaboration with Oxfam International and CARE International, is launching new gender-focused language guidance for the Rohingya refugee crisis. This language support, which is provided in the TWB Glossary for Bangladesh app, gives refugees, aid workers, and interpreters a well-researched tool to communicate more effectively with Rohingya women.

The updated glossary includes over 200 terms related to critical topics such as gender-based violence (GBV), family planning, and women's health. The glossary provides text and audio translations for those terms in five languages — Rohingya, Bangla, Burmese, Chittagonian, and English. The app can be accessed on a computer, tablet, Android, or iOS device and is available both on- and offline, making it useful in the camps.

With support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) and the Department for International Development (DFID), the three organizations worked together to identify the list of gender-focused terms needed to communicate effectively with the Rohingya community. TWB then conducted focus groups with Rohingya men and women, including refugees who had recently arrived and those who have lived in the camps for years. In the focus groups, TWB and the community agreed upon the best terms in each language to communicate specific gender-focused concepts.

There are many challenges associated with communicating with Rohingya women specifically.
In response to a conservative culture, Rohingya women have developed a 'sociolect' in which certain words or pronunciations are not understood by the men of their community. Rohingya women use many euphemisms when discussing topics that are perceived to be sensitive or taboo, such as rape and menstruation. Concepts like sex, gender, intercourse, empowerment, and puberty can all be sources of linguistic confusion. Furthermore, many Rohingya women are illiterate, making language support for interpreters and community health and field workers of critical importance. Oxfam research has found that Rohingya women have been at greater risk of abuse and health problems than men.

It is crucial for humanitarians to understand and respect the words Rohingya women use to describe their experiences. The terms will help Rohingya women access services and understand their rights, and will support aid workers and interpreters as they communicate with the community, guiding them in speaking about sensitive issues.

"The humanitarian community needs to address the specific needs of women in this crisis," commented Aimee Ansari, TWB's executive director. "We can only meet Rohingya women's needs if we understand their language."

Dorothy Sang, Oxfam's campaign manager in Cox's Bazar, said, "Good communication is vital if we're to ensure traumatized refugees who have already suffered so much get the right support. A third of Rohingya women in the camps said they did not feel safe leaving their shelters – we need to fully understand why this is so we can do a better job protecting women."

To help field workers understand the variances in the terms and to use them effectively, Oxfam will lead staff and interpreter training for the gender-focused app terminology in October 2018.

Oxfam is calling for 15 per cent of new funding for the Rohingya crisis to be set aside for programs designed to better support women and girls, such as lighting to improve safety, toilets and washrooms that provide privacy, and extra assistance for the most vulnerable.

The TWB Glossary for Bangladesh, originally introduced in July 2017, now supports communication related to gender, and water, sanitation and hygiene. In the coming months, TWB will expand the glossary to include language associated with education, health, and justice. The glossary is part of the global series of TWB Glossaries which standardize how important concepts and terms are conveyed in the languages of crisis-affected people.

With the support of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, CARE frontline staff are using this glossary to better communicate with women, men, girls and boys.

CARE's Gender, GBV & Protection Advisor, Clementine Novales, writes, "To be able to sincerely connect with the refugee community on sensitive issues of sexual violence, we ourselves first need to understand how they use words and concepts. With this new tool, we hope to clarify the language around gender, violence, and human rights."

Additional information on TWB Glossaries, and a link to the TWB Glossary for Bangladesh, can be found here.

About Translators without Borders

Translators without Borders (TWB) envisions a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. The US-based non-profit provides people access to vital knowledge in their language by connecting humanitarian and development organizations with a community of language professionals, building local language translation capacity, and raising awareness of language barriers. Originally founded in 1993 in France (as Traducteurs sans Frontières), TWB translates millions of words of life-saving and life-changing information a year.

About Oxfam

Oxfam is an international confederation that works with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries to end the injustices that cause poverty.

About CARE International

Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. To learn more, visit