Woman Humanitarian writing schedule on the board / Photo: Mary Tran
World Humanitarian Day: Honor and appreciation in Myanmar
Thousands of people, primarily Rohingya, have been confined to camps in Rakhine State, Myanmar, since 2012. These internally displaced people are unable to access adequate services like education and health care and are largely unable to leave. Amy Croome, Oxfam’s Acting Policy & Advocacy Coordinator in Myanmar, speaks to two women humanitarian leaders who are themselves displaced Rohingya living in the camps.
Both Amina Hathu and Rashida Begum work with Oxfam to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance in camps a few kilometers outside the town of Sittwe in Rakhine State.
Amina Hathu is Oxfam’s community facilitator and herself an internally displaced Rohingya. She explained why she does what she does everyday: “I feel honored and happy, because I can do something useful for others.” Together with Rashida Begum, another Rohingya IDP working with Oxfam in Myanmar as a Community Mobilization Assistant, she takes a break from her busy schedule to share more about her work and what motivates her.
Escaping the rain and muddy pathways, we sit down in one of Oxfam’s field offices in the camps. Surrounded by the colorful drawings and diagrams developed to communicate public health messages with the largely illiterate communities they work with, they started to detail their weekly schedule of community engagement activities. As Rashida Begum describes, “In our jobs we have a lot of tasks to carry out inside the camps. We do home visits, school visits and we work a lot with women and youth in the community to ensure they understand how to stop the spread of disease and keep their communities healthy. Sometimes it’s teaching kids about handwashing, sometimes it’s about working with women to design menstrual hygiene disposal systems to ensure privacy and dignity.”
For Rashida Begum, the satisfaction she gets from her work stems from understanding so well what they are experiencing: “We know the situation of the people and we can see what is working and what is not working, so we can provide feedback to our teams and adjust our programmes and work.”
Amina Hathu adds: “We know that people are suffering here. We want to provide people with education, support and more understanding about health issues in the community.”
One of Amina’s favourite days at work is the yearly Global Handwashing Day on 15 October. She organises events with children reading and performing poems about handwashing to the community. “I help the children prepare for this event and they do really well on the stage. Everyone claps and thanks them and the parents are so grateful that their children are given this opportunity.”
Rashida Begum one of the biggest buzzes she gets is providing dignity kits to woman as part of menstrual hygiene management. “We do a lot of awareness raising and explaining, but when the women received the kits – which include underwear, they were like, ‘Wow! Really thanks! This is really a big help to us’.”
As for most of us, being valued by their team and colleagues gives them both the energy to continue improving their work. For Rashida Begum feeling an appreciated by her peers is key: “When our opinion and insight is valued by our colleagues and team, this is very motivating.”
Oxfam in Myanmar provides clean water, builds latrines and stops the spread of disease through a large Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiative that reaches 100,000 people.