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UNFPA/WFP launch a new partnership in Bangladesh: Women-Led Community Centres at Rohingya refugee camps

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Cox’s Bazar, March 5, 2019 - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have jointly inaugurated Women-Led Community Centres in the sprawling Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“This joint project brings together UNFPA’s expertise in addressing gender-based violence and supporting women and girls throughout the camps, along with WFP’s demonstrated expertise in implementing livelihood projects through these centres,” said Asa Torkelsson, UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh.

“UNFPA is expanding its intervention in Cox’s Bazar with an increased focus on women’s and girls’ empowerment, including self-reliance skills that will strengthen and allow them the opportunity to improve their lives via specific training programmes, both in the short- and long-term,” she added.

The centres will also allow men and boys to participate, as well as provide local Bangladeshi host communities with an open space for cultural events, Torkelsson noted at the inauguration ceremony for the centres held on 4 March.

WFP has been implementing a ‘Skill Development Through Self-Reliance’ project in the camps since August 2018 and will be providing extended vocational training to women and teenage girls at the centres with an initial focus on sewing.

“Women and teenage girls in the refugee and host communities generally have very few opportunities to become self-sufficient. This is a concern for WFP as they often bear the brunt of food insecurity and other deprivations at the household level, and have less to eat as access to food is difficult,” explained Richard Ragan, Country Director for WFP in Bangladesh.

“These skill development trainings will provide them with an opportunity to be engaged in livelihood activities and improve their food security,” Ragan said.

Ten Women-Led Community Centres (Seven for Rohingya refugees, two for host community, one mixed) are being added to the 20 UNFPA Women Friendly Spaces (17 for Rohingya refugees, two for host community, one mixed) serving the camps and host communities, which have reached over 135,000 women and girls since August 2017, providing them access to midwifery and other important services for protection and well-being. With technical support from UNFPA and WFP, the non-government organisation Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK) is implementing the WLCC project.

Other UN and civil society partners are also offering similar skill-based programmes and training opportunities, to help amplify the impact of this approach, including UN Women, BRAC and UNICEF. Representatives from these and other organisations attended the inaugural ceremony and shared their experiences and willingness to work together to improve the lives of the refugees and host communities alike.Aynul Kabir, Additional Secretary, Bangladesh Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, congratulated the UN and partners, requesting more partnerships like this to build skills and benefit women and girls along with men and boys.

Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, thanked the Government and donors for their generous support, calling the project a good example of the “UN working as one.”

Kazi Faruk Ahmed; Camp in Charge, and Rokonuzzaman Zillulla, GUK Coordinator, also spoke at the inauguration ceremony.