As I walk into the Women Friendly Space at the Jamtoli Camp, I am instantly struck by a certain calmness. These camps are loud & crowded, actually overcrowded, and so to find a quiet oasis, in this case a small hut with a tarp roof and thatched bamboo walls, is surprising. But for the girls in this camp, this is what they call their “house of peace.” It’s a place they can come and just be. A place to interact with friends, seek counselling, learn about hygiene, or learn life skills like art and music.
There are approx 50 Women Friendly Spaces in the camps, just like this one, that on any given day see 50-70 Rohingya girls seeking these safe havens. The centers open at 9am, but there is seldom a day when the women aren’t lined up early, waiting for the doors to open.
It is here that I met three 18 year old young women, in particular, who’s stories really shook me - their names have been omitted to protect their identities. They recounted lives of pain and suffering so horrifying...it’s difficult to fathom. One scarred with memories of houses in her village being burned - she and her parents traveled for two days to get here, passing hundreds of decapitated and dismembered bodies along the way. Another shared stories of young girls being pulled from their homes to be raped and tortured. They even tried to kill her and cut her with a knife, but she fought back. How did you manage to be so brave, I asked her...she replied, “If you’re born you will die, so I’m not scared of dying today.” In what world is it normal for an 18 year old girl to have this perspective on life?! The third young woman traveled for nearly two weeks on foot through the forest, where her youngest brother died along the way. There was lots of rape and torture back home she told me, and some women’s breasts were even cut off.
While their lives are safer now, they are all still struggling. They know that with an education they can get a job and create better lives for their family, like buying protein for their meals, and clean drinking water. It’s literally as basic as that.
Please help however you can, no donation is too small...go to www.supportunicef.org #childrenuprooted @unicef