Describing the situation of Rohingya women as very bad, visiting United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on Saturday said the world has failed to protect the Rohingya women.
“I think the world has failed...Their [Myanmar] country has failed them in a massive way. Everybody [women] has been trying to rescue [them from] the situation because it has been a tussle. It has not been easy and possible for all those involved, including the UN system to be as effective as possible,” she said.
She made the remark at a media briefing in a city hotel wrapping up her five-day visit to Bangladesh.
Stressing the need for collective responsibility to address the challenges of Rohingya women, the UN Women Executive said, “We continue to do our best. Sometimes our best is not good enough because the situation is so bad. So, this is a collective responsibility.”
Noting that the UN Women faces problem in conducting its operation in Myanmar, she said it is interested in assisting the Rohingya women with microcredit. “We’re also interested in helping them with microcredit.”
She said they came to Bangladesh to encourage the women to participate in the upcoming national election. “Because the election is coming, we’re here to encourage the women to participate in the vote and encourage women leadership.”
Ngcuka expressed concern over the incorporation of provision in ‘Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017 that allows under-age marriage in exceptional cases. “It could undermine the good intention of the law as too many exceptions remain.”
Country Representative of UN Women Bangladesh Shoko Ishikawa was present. She ended her five-day visit on Saturday, during which she met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, along with other dignitaries, civil society leaders, and visited the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar, among others.
UN Women Executive Director praised the government of Bangladesh, as well as its people, for its generosity in welcoming the Rohingya despite its own priorities and its efforts to address needs of women and girls and protection of their rights and dignity during this world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Executive Director extended her appreciation to the Prime Minister for generously opening the border and sheltering the Rohingya refugees and agreed with the Prime Minister that the host communities impacted by the refugee influx as much support as the refugees.
She stressed the need for preparing the Rohingyas for the upcoming monsoon season and relocating the vulnerable households, many of them female-headed, to safer places away from the areas where landslide and flooding are predicted.
The Prime Minister and the Executive Director also discussed the numerous gender equality initiatives of the Prime Minister that has significantly improved the lives of women in Bangladesh, including the Prime Minister’s latest initiative on women’s skill development, including for women with disabilities.
The Executive Director, during her visit at the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, met a number of refugee women and girls.
She visited the UN Women Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre and the Women Friendly Space run by Action Aid where UN Women supports women’s skill development training, and spoke with women and young girls that were at the centres.
Both these ‘women-only’ places provide a safe space for the most vulnerable, neglected and marginalized Rohingya women, especially single mothers and adolescent girls that have little opportunity to come out of their houses due to the strict gender norms and segregation imposed by cultural and religious practices.
On her first day of the visit, Executive Director was part of a signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UN Women and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh.
The MoU accentuates the ‘aligned mutual interest’ of the Commission and the strategic priorities of UN Women to end impunity for conflict-related sexual violence, through its work on peace, security and humanitarian action.
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