Romida Begum sat on a chair in her tent home. Nearby, her older male assistant eyed her with a sideways glance. Romida – 27, a woman, and a refugee – couldn’t help but smirk: for once in her life, she was in charge.
Last June, Romida and other refugees headed to the polls in Shalbagan camp, one corner of the massive Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh that are home to more than 900,000 people. That’s how Romida found herself thrust into the position of camp leader, representing her community before Bangladesh’s government, the army, and aid groups.
However, interviews with Romida by The New Humanitarian over the past year show how attempts to make camp leadership more democratic have met resistance from an entrenched male-dominated system. And her experiences also signal the difficulties women face in their new leadership roles, even as aid groups make plans for further elections.
Months after fleeing a military purge in Myanmar, the refugees in Shalbagan were asked to choose leaders to represent their part of the camps. Stripped of rights and citizenship in Myanmar, most were voting for the first time in their lives.
Click here to read the full article published by The New Humanitarian on 26 August 2019.