Poribortok! Community Advocates Bring Positive Change in Rohingya Camps, Cox’s Bazar Villages

Rohingya Crisis

Cox’s Bazar – Samuda Begum wants to ensure her community’s women are aware about their human rights and concerns especially about the issues surrounding early marriage, household violence, and physical and sexual assault, so that they can lead life as human beings with dignity and respect.  

Standing on the podium, the middle-aged Samuda, a Rohingya woman living in one of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, expressed her wish before hundreds of people from her community on Tuesday. With such courage, she has included her name in the list of Community Advocates, a group initiated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and its local partner PULSE Bangladesh.  

A total of 400 Community Advocates from the refugee community have decided to join this group initiative and started their work on July 24, 2019 through a programme launch in camp 9.  

Community advocacy is part of the broader community mobilization work being carried out to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) and promote access to GBV services in refugee camps and in host communities. It is led by a team of Community Advocates who over time will become the heart of strengthening the community mobilization process. At the centre of this approach are women and men, girls and boys who have a desire and a commitment to create change in their lives and in their communities, known as Poribortok! (Change Maker!)  

With the slogan Coming Together is a Beginning, Keeping Together is Progress and Working Together is Success, the white T-shirt wearing Community Advocates are inspired to work with Rohingya and host community members to sensitize and raise awareness on GBV, particularly against women and girls.  

Speaking at the launch of the programme, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh Manuel Pereira said that through this initiative, IOM is working hard to prevent gender-based violence in Bangladesh. “IOM always comes with creative ideas to engage with communities and the Poribortok are just another example. This initiative aims to build a drive for peaceful and safe relationships, and for a community in which every person in camp or local area can feel equally valued. Our Community Advocates will make this happen as we provide skills building and learning to increase their recognition in respective communities.”  

Additional Commissioner Kazi Mohammad Mozammel Hoque from the office of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner welcomed IOM and PULSE Bangladesh to initiate such measures in the Rohingya camp and the crisis-affected local areas. “Community Advocates are chosen from the community level so they can gain trust of the community members quickly. I hope they will work to create positive social change by taking action in their personal lives and relationships and in their community.” 

The Community Advocates will support core community mobilization teams in 100 sub-blocks in several Rohingya camps. In every block, four community advocates – a woman, a girl, a boy and a man – are enlisted and have committed to at least one hour a week to facilitate prevention activities and one day a month for training.  

At least 2,000 people will be reached regularly while the advocates will also interact with five Community Action Groups and Community Leaders allowing the community to lead, inspire and influence positive change in their own lives and the life of others by challenging the social norms that perpetuate violence and power imbalances in communities.  

Along with the refugee community, IOM and PULSE Bangladesh are also working to enlist 320 Community Advocates at the local host community areas with the same objective. Key to highlight is that advocates give support voluntarily and they feel the urge to develop the mindset and attitudes of the community regarding gender issues and violence in the community.  

“IOM and PULSE’s community advocacy initiative will bring together community advocates, collaborating community groups and structures, community leaders, local authorities, community actors, NGO partners UN agencies and government to showcase the various services interlinked and needed for successful community mobilization,” said IOM Protection Programme Manager Chissey Mueller.  

The 19-year-old Rohingya advocate Anas Hossain said that he will make positive change in his community and he believes that this change is possible when the person believes in his or herself.  “Everyone can be treated with respect and it has to be started from me,” he said. 

For more information, please contact Tarek Mahmud at IOM Bangladesh, Mobile: +8801752380240 Tel: +88034152194-95, Email: tmahmud@iom.int  

  • Community advocates are presenting a role play at the launch of the community advocates initiative "Poribortok!"

  • IOM Bangladesh and local partner, PULSE launch the community advocates initiative "Poribortok!"