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Roving with Rohingya

Guila Clara Kessous | March 08, 2022 00:00:00

'Life of Rohingya Women', Rohingya artist Enayet Khan

'The crisis situation disproportionately affects women, girls and the most vulnerable and marginalized Rohingya refugee population groups by reinforcing, perpetuating and exacerbating pre-existing, persistent gender inequalities, gender-based violence and discrimination.' - UN Women

The first time I was approached to work on the Rohingyas' community was when a non-governmental organization approached me knowing my humanitarian work as an " artivist " (artist + activist). Indeed, as a UNESCO Artist for Peace, I am using performing art to help survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to better express themselves. This NGO saw my work in Congo with women victims of excision and decided to have me work in Bangladesh for the Rohingyas women population especially. My goal was to create pedagogical content to help trainers on site to deliver programs to women population to get a better sense of autonomy and self-confidence thanks to role games. I immediately realized the willingness of those women to become more autonomous and to better understand how their own value could make a difference in order for their children could be better treated. This sense of " family first " was very present and being a mother myself I felt very close to M. in particular who was explaining that she would have extreme difficulties not only because of those horrific conditions they are living in but also due to the lack of consideration women have in the clan. Sexual harassment and sexual crimes are getting more and more often and are carried out by men who usually are not busy working but on the contrary are getting more and more angry at the situation….and usually get revenge on women. Whereas Rohingyas women are all about preserving the interest of their family, men are fighting creating clans and beat their wives when they return at the end of the day. " We are scare, T. says. But we are trying to create alliances in order not to feel alone and being able to hide to one or another's home if things are getting more difficult ".

The program I created gave those women a better sense of a diagnostic in order to anticipate signals of violence in advance and immediately take actions.

From scare to care was really their motto as they went through the training program that was also including some meditation techniques inspired by the Heartfulness method. Finding a safe space to take a moment to breath, to visualize positive outcomes would be " extremely helpful " for them to get stronger.

Another part of the training was linked to the notion of worth for profitability. Making those women realize that they can be at the root of value creation thanks to what they know already was a real positive experience.

What is striking in this matter is how Rohingya's women are close to us, occidental women with our doubts, our pride and our willingness to give to our family and to our society. Whether I am with this feminine population or with a corporate feminine population, I am using the same exercises essentially on to women who push the notion of power back from what they think should not be their own shoulder. But now, it is time to stop being afraid and accept to become our own knight. Our family needs it, our society needs it, our worlds too…

Guila Clara Kessous, PhD, Harvard University, UNESCO Artist for Peace

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