The first thing I hear in the refugee camp is, “Rohingya women can do anything, I can do anything.”
Ayesha, about 60, shows us into her makeshift home with grace and warmth. My BBC Media Action colleagues and I sit on the beaten earth floor of her plastic hut dwelling. We’re in one of the biggest refugee camps in the world: Kutupalong, just outside Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh.
Her welcome is impressive and humbling. She has her baby grandson in her arms. His mother and father are conspicuous by their absence. We don’t ask where they are.
Four writers, a drama director and I are in the camp to talk to any of the Rohingya refugees kind enough to give us their time. But unlike so many of the journalists and NGO workers present, we’re not here to talk about their recent traumatic experiences, instead we want to know about life in the camp and how they’re coping now.
Earlier in the year, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted funding to Norwegian Church Aid and BBC Media Action to create a radio drama for Rohingya communities, specifically to help women and girls. As the project’s radio drama consultant, I’m here to help shape the production team’s ideas into a 20-episode synopsis.BBC Media Action often uses drama as a way to approach sensitive issues, and one of them is what NGOs call Gender-Based Violence, or GBV. This laudably non-judgmental expression is new to me and I can see the advantage of its neutrality. This term respects cultural practices, whereas terms such as ‘wife beating’, ‘sexual assault’ or ‘grievous bodily harm’ could be seen as pejorative and risk shutting down conversations around the issue. By understanding the experiences of Rohingya women and girls, and exploring them openly, this new radio drama has the opportunity to help address sexual violence and abuse.