Young Rohingya Girls – Voices, Concerns and Aspirations

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Dilaara, eighteen, is gifted with the skill of knitting crochet that she effortlessly picked up from a neighbour in Myanmar. Today her passion for the skill is helping her cope with uncertainties. Her mother died at a young age and father passed away three-years ago. She is living with her elder brother and sister-in-law in Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar. Dilaara is associated with an NGO and teaches young adolescent girls to knit topi (cap), lace, used as embellishment on dress and embroidery work. Teaching also provides her some money. “I am very happy to teach the girls. I spend my time constructively and enjoy their company. It helps me to forget all my worries and keeps me busy. I want to continue with it in future.”, says Dilaara.

About the personal project
#voicesconcernsandaspirations

After every visit, I often ask myself how long will it take to heal and rebuild hope. It’s been a year now to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis.

In this protracted humanitarian crisis, adolescent Rohingya girls are one of the greatest victims. Most of them have witnessed unimaginable violence, death, destruction and hunger and are currently trying to survive in these over packed, poorly structured camps, facing issues like malnutrition, trauma, unsanitary living conditions, restricted movements, and potential disease outbreak.

Adolescent girls have become more vulnerable to child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and deep-rooted gender bias. Most girls never or rarely leave their bamboo huts.They spend almost every hour of every day inside their sweltering huts cooking, cleaning or attending to children. A rare few have stepped out to support their families. Most families still don’t have enough to eat.

Inspite of the difficulties they face, the adolescent girls demonstrate unwavering resilience, courage and care that their communities need in this long drawn crisis. It is pertinent that their vulnerabilities, voices, concerns, isolation, fear, homelessness and aspirations are heard. They long to go to school, feel secure, make new friends, heal, go home, and rebuild their lives.

 

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Young Rohingya Girls – Voices, Concerns and Aspirations

gulati05tagMeeting Rashida was different and special, and it seems like yesterday. As soon as I saw her, I greeted her ‘Salaam Walekum’ and shook her hand instinctively. Rashida looked so happy to see me- her smile and the tight grip said it all. She kept holding my hand for some time and then let it go. So far, the girls I have met have been shy and not forthright welcoming. We sat inside the bamboo hut, few children playing in the backdrop and two men talking to each other on one side. Privacy is a privilege that Rohingya girls can no longer seek. While sharing her story, Rashida looked grim, she was experiencing the haunting memories of another world. Her grief was over-whelming. So many young Rohingya girls relive the trauma every day, having lost members of their family in the conflict. There is no solace . . .
Rashida, 13, studied in Class 3 in Rida village, district Maungdaw in Myanmar. Myanmar military attacked her village and burnt her house. “We were inside our home when the military burnt our house from both sides. I and my brother rushed out to escape without thinking of our mother,” says Rashida in a feeble voice.

Rashida lost her father at the age of two. A mother and a brother was all she called family. Her mother being old could not escape and died in the fire. Rashida is depressed and feels guilty for not saving her mother’s life. The thought disturbs her every single moment. “I miss my mother’s touch, ” she sobs. “What is going on is going. I do not think about future any more,” adds Rashida. Rashida is mainly confined to her poorly structured bamboo hut, doing daily chores and reciting Quran.

 

About the personal project
#voicesconcernsandaspirations

After every visit, I often ask myself how long will it take to heal and rebuild hope. It’s been a year now to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis.

In this protracted humanitarian crisis, adolescent Rohingya girls are one of the greatest victims. Most of them have witnessed unimaginable violence, death, destruction and hunger and are currently trying to survive in these over packed, poorly structured camps, facing issues like malnutrition, trauma, unsanitary living conditions, restricted movements, and potential disease outbreak.

Adolescent girls have become more vulnerable to child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and deep-rooted gender bias. Most girls never or rarely leave their bamboo huts.They spend almost every hour of every day inside their sweltering huts cooking, cleaning or attending to children. A rare few have stepped out to support their families. Most families still don’t have enough to eat.

Inspite of the difficulties they face, the adolescent girls demonstrate unwavering resilience, courage and care that their communities need in this long drawn crisis. It is pertinent that their vulnerabilities, voices, concerns, isolation, fear, homelessness and aspirations are heard. They long to go to school, feel secure, make new friends, heal, go home, and rebuild their lives.

Young Rohingya Girls – Voices, Concerns and Aspirations

 

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Eid was approaching and so was Shefara’s marriage. Shefara, 16 , had bought lot of dresses and jewelry of her choice and was looking forward to the most important day of her life. Just a week before her marriage, the Myanmar military attacked her village. “All the members of the family were called in the living room. The Myanmar military hit us with wooden logs, rifles and boots. Then they saw Shefara. Few men dragged her in the other room. When we all cried out loud, the army opened fire,” thirty-five year old Mumtaz, Shefara’s mother, narrates the horrific incident. After a while, the men came out from the room, leaving Shefara in the traumatized, unconscious state and took all the valuables from the house.

Shefara was admitted to a health center for two days. Soon after that all the members of the family fled to Bangladesh, carrying Shefara as she had not fully recovered. Initially for months, Shefara would sit in one corner and cry. She did not talk to anyone. She stopped eating and complained of body aches. Every day Shefara struggles to pick up the pieces of her life, taking one step at a time.

About the personal project
#voicesconcernsandaspirations

After every visit, I often ask myself how long will it take to heal and rebuild hope. It’s been a year now to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis.

In this protracted humanitarian crisis, adolescent Rohingya girls are one of the greatest victims. Most of them have witnessed unimaginable violence, death, destruction and hunger and are currently trying to survive in these over packed, poorly structured camps, facing issues like malnutrition, trauma, unsanitary living conditions, restricted movements, and potential disease outbreak.

Adolescent girls have become more vulnerable to child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and deep-rooted gender bias. Most girls never or rarely leave their bamboo huts.They spend almost every hour of every day inside their sweltering huts cooking, cleaning or attending to children. A rare few have stepped out to support their families. Most families still don’t have enough to eat.

Inspite of the difficulties they face, the adolescent girls demonstrate unwavering resilience, courage and care that their communities need in this long drawn crisis. It is pertinent that their vulnerabilities, voices, concerns, isolation, fear, homelessness and aspirations are heard. They long to go to school, feel secure, make new friends, heal, go home, and rebuild their lives.

#WorldHumanitarianDay

Today is the World Humanitarian Day and also observed as the World Photography Day. While I write this post, Kerela in India is reeling under massive floods. People in cities struggle to find food, water and safe shelter while conflict and disasters drive millions out of their homes. Women and children continue to be abused, trafficked and used as tools of war. As a documentary photographer covering disasters and conflict over a decade I often found local communities and people in everyday life who truly served as humanitarian workers. I have also met trained professionals who come from far reaching places to help communities in desperate need.

Sharing some of the photographs of people whom I met in this journey. It’s also pertinent to mention that increasingly humanitarian workers who deliver aid are directly targeted, treated as threat and prevented from delivering relief and care to those in desperate need.

 

 

The only consolation is that we are safe. . .

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PHOTO – SARIKA GULATI|SEEDS|DEC 2017
Field visit facilitated by Dhaka Community Hospital

 

We are facing every problem there can be . . .we do not have food; no firewood; there is not enough space for all the family members to live in the shelter; the toilet is far, collecting water is also a problem; water is not available for bathing . . . Maintaining hygiene is a critical issue Zuhra Begum

It takes Zuhra Begum around half an hour to reach DCH (Dhaka Community Hospital) Static Clinic in Hakimpara. The distance is not far but she has to walk down the hill to reach there. While going back to her shelter, it’s an arduous climb uphill with her five-month old girl child, Unesa Bibi.

Thirty-year old Zuhra Begum arrived Hakimpara in Cox’s Bazar three-months ago. A mother of four, Zuhra is worried about Unesa Bibi, who has been keeping unwell since their arrival. According to the doctor, Unesa is suffering from bronchiolitis and malnutrition. Although she has been receiving treatment for three months, there has not been much progress.

‘The surroundings are dirty. There is disease outside as well as inside. Since my arrival, I have spent more time seeing the doctor. The shelter sways with the wind. We do not have enough warm clothes and adequate shelter to withstand the cold’, says Zuhra.

‘It is painful to cover a long distance to fetch water. We have fallen and hurt our selves several times. It takes around 30 minutes to go to the nearest water source in our block. The long queue further delays the process. Mostly children or my father go to fetch water’, Zuhra further adds.

Two families comprising of twelve members live in 20 ft by 7 ft area in Hakimpara, they now call home. Zuhra’s parents are also living with her along with her four sisters and brothers. ‘Construction of the shelter was challenging’, says Zuhra. They did not have money to pay for labour and constructed the shelter themselves. Zuhra helped in leveling the land that caused hand injury. The cost of the material was 6000tk. Zuhra’s family had received a financial support of 3000 tk for food and other essentials from an NGO. Instead of buying food, they spent the entire money on construction material.

A chulha made with mud is used for cooking. Zuhra’s mother Nuruzzan (age 45) complains that they do not have enough fuel to cook food. Earlier it was easily available, says Nuruzzan.  Refugee children and women have been collecting wood from the forests and are vulnerable to accidents. With the huge influx of Rohingya refuges in the area that has remained untouched, environment degradation is a huge concern. Tubewells are dug all over the camp areas; hills tracts have been cut to construct temporary shelter and waste management is a serious issue.

Zuhra’s father Mohd. Shofi Ali (age 60) suffers from back and chest pain. Nuruzzan has tooth ache and ulcer in the stomach. They have been referred to Ukhyia hospital but they have not gone so far because they do not have any money. Zuhra feels weak and has gastric problem.

The toilets are built on the slopes and it is risky and dangerous to go at night. Mohd. Shofi brought solar panel and 9 batteries from Myanmar. He uses a torch at night. The batteries will soon be exhausted, says Mohd. Shofi.

Living in such precarious condition, the only consolation for Zuhra’s family is that they are safe.

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“One farm technology platform is basically a text and voice based platform where we provide using certain farm inputs from the farmer like, seed, seed variety, soil type, neutral level in the farm practices they have done earlier and production that they grew last time; using some algorithms and databases that we have built, we create a real time advisory giving it to the farmer in voice and text that they hear and apply in the farm. And it is customized for individual farmer. If he owns 2-acre farm then the advisory is according to that.” – Ajay Pratap Singh, Ekgaon CEO

Copyright – Sarika Gulati/PACS

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“Around twenty-thousand (10-12 man) Nepali rupees worth rice is buried under the debris. Now it has even started growing and is no use to us.” – Dharamdhoj Karki, village Kothe (District:Sindhupalchowk), Nepal

Little hands from Ottawa make all the difference . . .

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Humanitarian aid is reaching Nepal from all corners of the world. Organisations and individuals at their own level are trying to contribute their bit for Nepal.

George, Oliver, Vasu, Vani, Josh, Owen, Zari, Claire and Awa made a donation on behalf of the children of Old Ottawa South to UNICEF’S relief efforts in Nepal.

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A sum of $ 204.00 was raised from the Hopewell Avenue sale. The Echo Drive sale brought in $58.00. Oliver and Claire donated their private proceeds from the Hopewell bike sale for an additional $63, giving them a grand total of $325 !!!

Since the Canadian government matches the funds, they really donated $650.

Kudos to the kids for their hard work and efforts trying to reach out and help the earthquake affected families in Nepal.

Photo courtesy – Priya Gaba

Nepal Earthquake- beyond the debris

May 5, 2015

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Amma was quite happy to see me. Since the earthquake drastically turned her life 11 days ago, there were no new faces to be seen. As if the time stood still. Armed Police Force (APF) came once to her village to help people salvage their things from the damaged/collapsed houses. She was peeling corn when i entered her makeshift tent.

Quite fluent in hindi, Amma has traveled to Kolkata and few other places in India. She asked me the purpose of my visit to her village. There were no expectations from her end. I told her that i had come to spend some time in the village and she was convinced.

Eighty-year old Harimaya Pulamini is a mother of three. She lost her husband 35 days ago. All her daughters are married and well settled. Pulamini does not own any land and mainly relies on vegetables she grows in the open space outside her house. Her daughters are her only support.

She was alone in the house, the day earthquake shook her mud house. Although it did not collapse, she cannot stay there any more and is scared to go inside. For few days she spent night in the open and eventually the villagers bought a tent for her. “I have been staying in the open for long. It’s quite cold at night and my head aches. That is why i have covered my forehead”, said Harimaya Pulamini.

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The villagers helped her to procure utensils and the remaining stuff from the damaged house. So far she has not received any relief material from the government except a tent. On the tenth day after the earthquake, few families in the village received tents and few were left out.

Harimaya lives in one of the settlements of Lakhinpur Ward No.9 in Sindhuli district of Nepal. The settlement is completely cut-off and is around 16 kms away from the nearest road. People take around two hours going down the mountain and three and a half hour climbing up to the village.

What is the most important thing you need right now?, I asked.
I need a shelter to cover my head, said Amma (Harimaya).

Conversation on Nepal

I was in my kitchen when the earthquake shook our three-storey building. Had just cooked food and was sitting with my son, daughter and sister. As soon as the whole house started shaking, my sixteen-year old daughter came clinging to me. My sister and my son took one corner and ducked themselves. My daughter and I headed to the other side and held ourselves to the wall.

When the quake stopped, my sister and two children went out. I was confident that i had at least one minute time before the aftershock will come. This gave me time to collect my first-aid kit, go bag, two shawls and then i left home. I was prepared to stay out as long as it required.

I was even wearing my shoes as I am a search and rescue instructor too. I though i might have to do search and rescue too.

So far there are no cracks in my house. The only damage that has happened is the front panel of my cellphone and three days after the quake, the wall clock dropped.

Omkala Khanal – NSET Social Mobiliser

May5. 2015