Changing the lives of mothers in Bangladesh refugee camps

by Luna Allison | June 19, 2018
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Rajiah, 46,  fled violence near her home in Myanmar 6 months ago with her youngest daughter, age 15. She is one of close to one million Rohingya people have fled violence in Myanmar and crossed the border into Bangladesh. This unprecedented migration of Rohingya refugees to makeshift camps in Bangladesh has caused a widespread humanitarian crisis.

Women helping women survive and thrive

Rajiah has been surrounded by women throughout her life as the eldest of 10 sisters. She herself has 5 daughters, two of which are also living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Rajiah’s husband disappeared when the violence broke out in Myanmar, and now Rajiah has no idea where he is. Like so many women in the camp, Rajiah must now manage her household alone.

Rajiah was unanimously selected to represent her community during an Oxfam assessment of their most pressing needs. She is a well-educated woman, who has been working with and for her community throughout her life. She delivered more than 10,000 babies while working as a midwife in Myanmar.

Now, as a refugee in Bangladesh, she is making sure she puts her experience to good use. She supports and provides information to the pregnant women in her community. Her name means “Hope” - a true reflection of her personality and her life’s work.

Rajiah brings leadership to Cox's Bazar

Rajiah was born in a relatively affluent family in Myanmar. Education was an important part of her childhood, and her family made sure all the girls attended school.

Rajiah honed her leadership skills from a young age, starting at school as a class leader. Later, organizations who were working in her community, including the UN, selected Rajiah as one of their volunteers. She continued working as a health worker and played a major role in the vaccination process in her area, helping to prevent children dying needlessly from preventable illnesses.

Rajiah is outspoken and confident, a full believer in women’s role outside the household. That way, she says, women can get knowledge and they can advance – and then other women can also come forward simply by seeing these role models.

She is very keen on working to help her community, especially the women.

Oxfam is there

Oxfam is organizing women’s groups in the refugee camps so that women like Rajiah can take leadership roles in their communities.

Oxfam is also providing water and sanitation to support the crowded conditions and sheer volume of people. We are drilling wells, installing water points, and providing toilets and showers.

We’re are helping people stay healthy by distributing soap and other essentials, and we are working with community-based volunteers to emphasize the importance of clean water and good hygiene, in order to prevent the spread of diseases.

So far, we have reached at least 185,000 people, and hope to reach more than 250,000 in the coming months. 

Your support means that Oxfam can provide Rohingya refugees with clean water, sanitation and shelter.


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