New project launched to help Rohingya women create sustainable livelihood initiatives
Last month, our first UNHCR-funded project took off in Ipoh, Malaysia. We have already conducted two field visits to the Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM) in order to assess the needs of 24 participating Rohingya women.
This 6-month project is part of UNHCR Malaysia's strategy to engage local NGOs to work with Rohingya refugee groups. We have already visited them twice and explored their personal interests, skills and needs to narrow down feasible business ideas. Until the end of March 2018, we will visit the women every three weeks to create sustainable livelihood initiatives. The UNHCR long-term goal of this programme is to tackle Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) issues. A Mental Health Study conducted by the University of New South Wales investigated 750 Rohingya families in the Ipoh Perak region, and showed that 60% of the women and children are SGBV victims. The lack of education, skills and knowledge leads to poverty in a majority of the families.
This Rohingya Women Empowerment Project is a start to supporting these women in their daily life and empowering them to shape their own futures.
Rohingya refugees in Malaysia
In February 2017, there were 149,496 refugees registered with UNHCR Malaysia (UNHCR Malaysia Factsheet, February 2017). 133,263 are from Myanmar, comprising a majority of ethnic Rohingya.
The Rohingya have been persecuted by the government in Myanmar for decades with physical conflicts peaking in violent outbursts between them and the military. Furthermore, they are discriminated against and hindered in their daily life as the government considers them illegal immigrants. As such, they are deprived of their citizenship and not allowed to access education or civil rights, such as voting. Internationally, they are considered one of the most persecuted ethnicities in South East Asia and are recognised as stateless people. Rohingya are seeking refuge in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.The first Rohingya have arrived in Malaysia in the 1980s.