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RAKHINE, Myanmar - From 5 to 7 June 2018, the supporters of UNFPA Myanmar’s Women and Girls First programme visited programme activities in Rakhine State. Donors from Australia, Finland and Italy met with displaced women and girls in camps in the Sittwe area, and also visited Women and Girls Centers in Kyauktaw and Mrauk U.

“For survivor-centred gender-based violence (GBV) services, it is really vital that the decision on whether to report the case or not, is made by women themselves”, said Eeva Lehtinen from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

On the first day, the delegation visited the Women and Girls Centre in Baw Du Pha camp for internally displaced people. The centre is a safe space for women and girls that focuses on the prevention and response to violence against women.

“What we experienced was the complexity and the challenges of the work that UNFPA is carrying out in Rakhine State, delivering sexual and reproductive health care and GBV services”, said Alessandra Puccioni from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Tailored solutions

The Women and Girls Centre offers daily education sessions on GBV and also sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and adolescent girls. The centre staff also provides education sessions for boys and men in the community hall or in the local clinic. Sexuality education that is inclusive and non-stigmatizing, and also promotes gender equality and the rights of young people, plays an important role in preventing gender-based violence. To see this put into practice, the team visited a session for adolescent boys about love and sexuality.

Tailoring specific solutions and ad-hoc activities is a key strategy to respond efficiently to the different contexts, needs and priorities faced by the various communities living in the area. This approach can support not only the inter-communal coexistence, but also the strong relationship between peace, humanitarian assistance and development”, said Davide Dolcezza from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Access to health

Donors of UNFPA’s WGF initiative with UNFPA and partner staff at the Women and Girls Centre in Kyauktaw, Rakhine.

Access to sexual and reproductive health care is a challenge for women in Rakhine, not least for those who identify as Rohingya and whose movement is restricted. Many women rely on mobile clinics supported by UNFPA.

It was really interesting to see the role of mobile clinics in providing services. Provision of easily accessible and affordable reproductive and sexual health services is crucial for improving the health of women and girls, and it is also fundamental to gender equality“, said Gisela Bluhmental from the Finnish Ministry of for Foreign Affairs.

Protection at the core

During the three-day visit, the donors also visited the Women and Girls Centres in Kyauktaw and Mrauk U. These centres are pursuing a social cohesion programme that provides a platform for women and girls from Muslim and Buddhist communities to come together. In addition, the delegation met with the Rakhine State Ministers for Social Welfare, for Security and for Planning, to advocate for access to services for all people in Rakhine State.

Protection is at the core of Australia’s humanitarian action, and I was proud to see this being put into action by UNFPA and partners. Muslim women in Rakhine State are particularly vulnerable and our partners are working to provide them with access to services for sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as GBV services. However it is clear that restricted freedom of movement exacerbates the challenges faced by this group”, said Esther Perry from the Australian Embassy.

UNFPA’s Women and Girls First (WGF) programme is supported by Australia, Finland, Italy and Sweden. UNFPA’s WGF-supported activities in Rakhine are operated by the Danish Refugee Committee, the International Rescue Committee, and the Myanmar Medical Association.