How Knowledge and Resilience Can Make a Huge Difference

Rafia Begum is a mother of four, living with her husband and children in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. She got married to Jamal Hossain in Myanmar when she was only 14. Her life changed forever since then as she started to experience gender-based violence in her marriage. 

Rafia’s struggles intensified further, when her husband fell victim to the harsh blows of the Myanmar military, rendering one of his hands incapacitated and confining him to the walls of their home. Although Rafia and her family moved to Bangladesh for safety, Rafia was not safe from abuse in her own house.

She grew up in a culture that did not support women speaking up against such violence, so she continued to suffer quietly. Rafia recalls, “I suffered silently, never complaining about my husband's abuse. Neither did I ever work outside to keep peace in our family as the community I come from always frowned upon women working outside of their home. Even when my oldest daughter turned 12, they pressured her to marry early. Deep inside I was longing for another escape”.

Rafia’s wishes came true when she got exposed to the Multi-Purpose Women's Centre (MPWC), run by ActionAid Bangladesh in her camp. She was inspired by the dedicated ActionAid’s volunteers and the role they were playing in the community. There she participated in an external awareness session on GBV, women's and child rights, trafficking, and child marriage, understanding how little she knew about these topics It was a turning point for her as now she knew she did not need to suffer silently. 

Rafia is now a proud entrepreneur, running a shop selling clothes and ready-made garments in the camp. The community still does not approve of her choice to work, but she is not confined by their perceptions anymore. Her earnings have become a pillar of strength for her husband to manage the daily family expenses as he himself cannot work anymore. He is also now more aware about the consequences of GBV, as ActionAid Bangladesh, organised a male engagement session in their block, addressing the pressing issues of GBV and women's rights.

Rafia proudly says, “Now I am a women community leader, conducting sessions to inspire other women in my community to speak up.” Rafia’s story is a testament to resilience and power of knowledge, giving hope to others facing similar challenges.