From where I stand: “I am worried about the monsoon…will our small shelter keep standing?”

Minara Begum is among the thousands of Rohingya women who fled the violence unleashed by the Myanmar army in her village, Buchidong, Myanmar. Having learned new skills in a UN Women-supported Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, she is speaking out, meeting decision-makers in the camp and helping other Rohingya women.


Minara Begum. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce
Minara Begum. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce

In Myanmar, we had a big wooden house. We had cows, goats, chicken and lots of trees around the house. We grew rice and always had enough to eat.

When the army came, they started burning our houses, our mosques and killing people. I ran with my parents, my siblings and my four-year-old daughter. We couldn’t carry anything with us.

I walked for five days without any food. At night, we slept wherever we could, in open spaces. When we reached the river, I gave my gold nose pin to a boatman to cross the river.

Now we are at the Balukhali camp, but life here is not easy. My father is old and cannot work. I have to go out to collect the relief items and carry them home. My child cries a lot… there’s not enough food. She asks for fish and meat, but I can’t provide that.

Most of all, I am worried about the monsoon season. We are in a low-lying area… will our small shelter keep standing?

Recently, I have learned tailoring at the Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre at the camp. I also volunteer to give information about the Centre to other women in the camp so that they can come here and learn tailoring. I talk to the parents of adolescent girls in the camp and encourage them to send their daughters to the Centre so that they learn new skills and get information about the services available for them.

It feels good when I am at the Centre, meeting other women, learning new things. If I get a sewing machine, I can start earning some income for my family, I can get some good food for my daughter and educate her. I want her future to be better than this.”

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Minara Begum is only 22 years old and has traversed unimaginable hardships to find safety in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. But safety is still a relative term for her. On her list of priorities are income-generating opportunities, better food and education for her daughter, and a secure place to live when the rains come. Minara Begum’s story reflects the reality of hundreds of thousands of women caught in one of the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. It also shows how the Sustainable Development Goals on promoting decent work and productive employment for all (SDG 8) and on facilitating safe migration and mobility of people (SDG 10) impact women on the ground.