This project is taking place in Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, to address gender commitments in the Global Compact on Refugees in different refugee situations. The work in these sites is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 


Working in Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh, the project is being conducted in close partnership with local academics, refugee women and refugee services. To respond effectively to different refugee contexts, the project has taken a slightly different approach in each country, using the research team’s signature Reciprocal Research methodology

Our local partners will take forward the work of the project, to achieve the long-term objectives of increasing refugee women’s participation and ending sexual and gender-based violence

Partners and collaborators

Academic partner: Manzoor Hasan, Muhammad Badiuzzaman and Nahida Akter, Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ), BRAC University, Dhaka

Organisational partners/ collaborators: Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), UNHCR Cox’s Bazar, IOM, Relief International, with the participation and support of numerous other local and international NGOs.

A tailored approach 

In each country, the project approach is being adapted to suit local needs and context. In Bangladesh, following consultation with local stakeholders, the research team developed a multi-stage, multi-stakeholder approach to undertaking the research consultations, to better respond to the huge population of refugees. The aim was to work with service providers and identified refugee women and men leaders as principal researchers, to undertake research consultations and develop proposals to address gender and diversity issues in the camps and host community. This was agreed as an effective way to add value to existing gender programs and to support the longer-term capacity of local organisations and refugee community members to respond to gender and diversity needs in the community.

Building local research capacity 

Experiential trainings in the project methodology were held with camp-based refugee women and men leaders and with UNHCR and NGO partners in November 2019. These involved 152 participants, including 42 refugee women and 20 refugee men. They prepared participants to undertake camp-based research consultations with Rohingya refugees. UNHCR and other partner NGOs provided additional support for the expanded scope of the project in Bangladesh. A committee of local service providers took responsibility for coordinating the camp-based research consultations.  

Locally led research consultations, and analysing the data 

The refugee women and men worked in teams with UNHCR/NGO staff to lead 16 camp level research consultations in December 2019 and January 2020, reaching a total of 165 Rohingya women and 69 men. Each group produced detailed documentation of their consultation. 

Three Data Analysis workshops with the refugees and NGO/UN staff who had facilitated and documented the camp level consultation were held in February 2020. These provided further training and an opportunity to collate, synthesise and analyse the data from the individual camp consultations. The workshops were led by the UNSW team with support from Rachel Tan, APRRN. 

The data and suggestions for actions from the refugee participants were discussed in a meeting with stakeholders at the conclusion of this process, with a local action plan and next steps planned for mid-2020. However COVID 19 has necessitated some adaptations to this plan. The report launch and stakeholder presentation  planned for November 2020 has also been postponed.

COVID impacts and next project stages: 

The project was always designed to work in a range of diverse contexts, and to provide remote support for local actions, so the UNSW team obtained approval from DFAT to adapt the project to respond to the current crisis and its impacts on refugee women and girls and their communities. This slightly revised approach provides an opportunity to support and document refugee women-led and local NGO supported gender sensitive responses in the context of a humanitarian emergency. 

Given the increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence and in particular heightened risks of domestic violence during COVID restrictions, projects and strategies to reduce and address these risks were prioritised. As Government restrictions preclude the employment of refugees and the direct funding of refugee-led initiatives in Bangladesh, the UNSW team partnered with local NGO Lighthouse to provide support for the initiatives being led by informal networks of refugee women working in the camps in activities designed to prevent and address the impacts on COVID-19 on women and children. Evaluation, analysis and recommendations from this project, among others, will be part of the final outcomes for the overall project. 


Research consultations were held in Kuala Lumpur in August 2019, with 36 refugee women leaders from 12 countries, 5 refugee male leaders, and UNHCR and NGO representatives. The process was supported by APRRN, and local partners Dr Shanti Thambiah, Tenaganita, MSRI, Asylum Access Malaysia, and UNHCR. The outcomes, together with further training and roundtables with project partners and refugee women in February 2020, identified concrete local strategies, programs and planning to increase refugee women’s participation and to address sexual and gender-based violence. The local partners are working closely together and with UNHCR and refuge women leaders to implement these local actions, including actions to support refugee women during COVID restrictions.

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Consultations were held on the Thai/Myanmar border in August 2019, with 38 women leaders from the nine border camps, plus 2 male leaders, UNHCR and NGOs. The consultations were co-facilitated by local academic partners Sriprapha Petcharamesree and Ratawit Ouaprachanon, (Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University), and supported by Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO), The Border Consortium (TBC) and APRRN. The Final Consultations report was produced in October 2019 and short film segments illustrating key findings and recommendations were shown at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December 2019. With the advent of COVID restrictions, the project has adapted to provide online training requested by the refugee women’s organisations, and to support four grassroots refugee women’s organisations to run COVID-support projects in the refugee camps.


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