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Bangladesh: Child Protection Assessment - Rohingya Refugee Response - May 2020

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Since August 2017, over 710,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar District fleeing military operations characterised by widespread reports of human rights violations in Myanmar . There are over 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in 34 camp settlements in Ukhiya and Teknaf and, of these, 55% are children . Humanitarian crises, including natural disasters and complex emergencies, compromise children’s rights to survival, development, and protection. Prior to dispalcement, Rohingya children experienced protection risks that were then further exacerberated by the humanitarian crisis that exposed them to physical violence, psychosocial trauma, sexual violence, forced labour, child marriage, and other forms of abuse and violence. In addition to witnessing extreme violence in Myanmar, Rohingya children have been exposed to continued stressful and uncertain living conditions in Bangladesh. Adolescents especially face difficulties that intersect across a variety of sectors and their needs have sometimes been overlooked. Their lives, including their education, livelihoods, and relationships, were interrupted by violence in Myanmar and restoring these in the refugee camps has proven difficult as the adolescents face a new set of uncertainties and threats in their new homes.

As the emergency crisis morphed into a protracted crisis, the daily lives, needs, and threats encountered by children and adolescents also changed. In key informant interviews (KIIs) conducted with Child Protection Sub-Sector (CPSS) partner organizations, partners described how child protection (CP) activities at the beginning of the response focused on psychological support for the trauma that children experienced while in Myanmar and during their journey to Bangladesh. A year into the response, child protection partners and the humanitarian community began to focus more on threats within the camps and host community, including criminal groups, trafficking, violence, and abuse, and the negative coping mechanisms that stem from insecurities around household economics and safety, such as child marriage and child labour. Members of communities have been advocating for more programming focused on long-term needs, such as livelihood trainings and education.

In addition to KIIs, a secondary data review (SDR) and an analysis of anonymized case data from the Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS+) found two main information gaps which continued to affect child protection actors’ abilities to respond in the camps: 1. child protection risks within the camps, especially in regards to child marriage, child labour, and violence/abuse, and 2. access to and prioritization of services as identified by adolescents.

The adolescents captured by this research – those between the ages of 15-20 – represent a core group of youths that need to have their voices amplified. Too old to access many services, yet with very limited livelihood opportunities, these adolescents stand at the cusp of adulthood with no concrete understanding of what their future holds for them.

Main trends

The three main themes covered by the supporting briefs focus on adolescents’ views on protection risks, their access to services, and their participation in work in and outside the home. The interplay between these themes is vital in understanding the realities and nuances of these adolescents’ lives. Through the research, it can be seen how these adolescents’ assessment of the risks they face on a daily basis affects their access to services and their willingness to participate in activities outside their shelters. At the same time, when the adolescents feel that services are not intended to meet their needs, they are less willing to participate.

Across all themes, the influence of gender roles was evident as was the responsibility that adolescents felt to provide for their families. Female adolescents reported carrying out various household chores that took up their entire day, and often preferred staying in their shelter to avoid eve-teasers and threats outside their shelter. They participated in very few activities outside their shelter, thereby potentially limiting the interactions they have with community members, non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, and other non-family members thus limiting the knowledge they may have about services available to them. Females often have to negotiate intra-household decision-making channels with their parents or husband and ask for permission before accessing health services and learning centres. Decisions around marriage also tend to be in the hands of caregivers and parents, who are influenced by concerns over safety, reputation, and cultural practices. In spite of pressure to stay inside their shelters, female adolescents want more opportunities to learn livelihood skills such as sewing and tailoring.

Male adolescents reported being freer to move in and out of their shelters and felt the need to find paid work to support their families financially. They faced difficult work conditions, especially those who had to perform hard labour such as carrying heavy objects for construction. Male adolescents participate in some learning activities, albeit at lower rates than younger children. By facilitating more support to home-based learning activities and madrassas, partners can work towards creating more opportunities for male adolescents to engage in learning.

Key recommendations

Based on the findings of this assessment, the key trends identified through the different thematic briefs, and consultations with CPSS, the following key recommendations are suggested:

• Seek to harmonize efforts by sectoral partners, community-based child protection groups, and communities to address the root causes of and prioritize the prevention of the child protection risks highlighted, especially kidnapping and child trafficking.

• Direct programming efforts towards better understanding of existing beliefs and societal norms, and work within that system to build upon community-level mechanisms to reduce protection risks, including violence and child marriage, and safety concerns, including road accidents. Community-based child protection mechanisms should be proactively consulted, with active engagement from adolescents and children.

• Seek to understand which forms of learning activities adolescents are able and willing to participate in a genderresponsive manner.

• Work with community groups to ensure that adolescents have support to help address their continuing trauma and distress and work to confront issues of eve teasing/sexual harassment.

• Collaborate with communities, women’s groups and other relevant actors to establish more opportunities for female adolescents and adults to engage in income-generating activities while also strengthening pathways through which working adolescents and adults can report unsafe working practices in a confidential manner.