International Women's Day: Women bring new life into refugee camps

Celebrating women everywhere

Resilience. Strength. Bravery. Three words which come to mind when thinking of women, and in particular mothers. But there are so many more. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to talk about these qualities. To praise and celebrate women everywhere for all they are, and all that they are capable of becoming. To take stock of how far the movement toward equality has come, and how far there still is to go. Or, if nothing else, reach out to the women in our lives and thank them for all they have given us.

Searching for safety: women in the world’s biggest refugee camp

Another quality that comes to mind – for mothers particularly – is self sacrifice. And there is perhaps nowhere where this is clearer than Cox’s bazaar, Bangladesh, home to the world’s biggest refugee camp. Beneath plastic tarpaulin and makeshift shelters, thousands of Rohingya women do what they can to recover from the horrifying atrocities committed in Myanmar, whilst remaining strong for their families in the overcrowded confines of the camps.

Despite the horror, life must go on, as these women know better than anyone. Families must be fed, clothed, kept safe from diseases. Inevitably, families grow; babies are born. It is this new life that is the focus of International Women’s Day at Save the Children this year, and in particular the story of Rohana* and her baby Khotija*, one of the families helped by the ECHO-funded Save the Children Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) in Cox’s Bazaar last year.

To share her story and other women’s experiences across the camps, we collaborated with the DEC and six other aid agencies to bring together stories and images from the first 18 months of the crisis, which you can read here.

The next chapter

After delivering her baby alone in her shelter, 25 year old Rohana began to haemorrhage badly, but there was no one to come to her aid. She believes she would have died had she not been taken to the PHCC who gave her the life saving support she needed. The PHCC team then sent Rohana by ambulance to hospital, where she received emergency treatment, and thankfully made a full recovery.

When it was time for Rohana and her baby girl to go home, the team discharged her with medicines, baby clothes, a cradle, a mosquito net, and a bag to carry her baby supplies in. Three months on, Khotija is a happy, healthy baby and is growing well, and both mother and baby have been back to the PHCC several times for checkups.

After such a positive experience, Rohan has spread the word of the health centre to her friends and other Rohingya women and encourages them to give birth in the maternity ward at the PHCC. There have now been six more babies born and hopefully many more healthy babies to come.

After a dark period in these women and their family’s lives, new life seems to bring new hope in the camps.

What can we do to support women?

Childbirth is just one of the ways in which women are more affected by life in refugee camps. Learn more about our work and help support Rohingya refugees living in these difficult conditions, or find out what other ways you can mark International Women’s day.

*names changed to protect identity 

Leave a Reply