4. Livelihoods & Jobs

Livelihoods & Jobs – Girls 0 – 12 years:

While livelihoods and jobs should not affect this age group, many young girls who are forced to drop out of school do informal work, There are many cases of exploitation and sexual abuse of young girls engaged in this work.

Livelihoods & Jobs – Girls 13 – 17 years:

Many girls in this age group are forced by circumstance to find work. Most of this is illegal and dangerous, for example foraging in rubbish tips or cutting bamboo shoots outside the camps. There is a high level of rape and sexual harassment in these situations. However, there is very little opportunity for these girls to gain access to training or stable livelihoods inside the camps. “They are too young to work, but not too young to be forced into marriage”.The women discussed the need for income generation and training for girls who are not able to attend school.

There is also significantly increased child marriage as families feel they cannot support their daughters. Child labour is common as families seek any means to access extra income.

Girls are on average stopped to go outside after age of 12. They think that the girls will be considered bad if they roam around in the Camps. Moreover, there is no formal education for girls after class 7. This is also discourage parents to continue education for girls. These has a negative impact on them. They are trained to be a wife from a very young age. This increase their risk to face SGBV as often they are survivor of IPV and DV after marriage. (Refugee woman)

Livelihoods & Jobs – Women 18 – 24 years and 25 – 50 years:

The women discussed the fact that in all nine camps there has been a lot of vocational training courses provided by the NGOs. However, there are no markets in the camps for the goods they produce and they are not allowed outside. “They teach us how to weave, but we have no money to buy thread so we cannot produce anything”. “Even if they make something, who will buy from them?”

They also reported that the training certificates they are given are not recognised outside the camps. It was agreed by all of the women that the only sustainable solutions to livelihood and jobs are work rights, alongside permission to leave the camps and transport to available work. Without viable, legal livelihood opportunities, the women are dependent on humanitarian aid, which is shrinking because of “the reductions” and inadequate to cover basic needs.

And also refugee women doesn’t report about SGBV cases at the workplace because they are afraid that this won’t help because they are refugees and also the employer may blackmail her that ‘if you report to police they might arrest you because you are working here illegally’. So women have to keep silent

Refugee Woman, 2019

As can be seen, there was a major focus on cultural or religious restraints including gender discrimination, sexual harassment at /or on the way to, and at work and risk of exploitation, corruption, physical and sexual abuse (Including rape by employers). These issues were all exacerbated by a lack of resources, education, and opportunities. They also linked the lack of livelihoods to lack of education for girls and noted the endemic SGBV risks that contribute to already limited education for girls.

Participants acknowledged that there are limited livelihood opportunities for all people in the camp, but that additional barriers to livelihoods for women and girls include discriminatory gender norms and the ubiquitous risks of SGBV when women and girls move around the camps. The women noted a few short-term opportunities but no long term, safe options for them or for the males in their families. 

In (X) camp – there are [a] factory of soap-making, computer training centre, sewing training centre but these training centres only provide training for 3 months. So, for 3 months they have a good life. First 3 months provided the training and a stipend (used to be 3000 per month – now 3,500 and then 3 months paid on what they produce and then [they] have to leave.

Refugee woman facilitator

The lack of means to earn income legally, with limitations on available aid, places great financial stress on all groups, and this has both predictable and unintended consequences. Negative consequences include increased family separation as families seek to obtain an additional ration card to access more aid, and men marrying a second wife to access further dowry payments. There is also a black ‘economy’ of ration goods, as some groups are forced to exchange a portion of their aid for assistance in obtaining or transporting it and to supplement their diets with fresh food and vegetables.  

Women and girls are expected to do household work and child-care, and are reluctant to, or sometimes not allowed by their families to move freely around the camp, for both safety and cultural reasons. This restricts their limited opportunities to access work or to attend livelihood training.  Some women do who work, including as volunteers with NGOs, face risks of sexual abuse and harassment, verbal abuse and intimidation as they are perceived to be breaching social and religious norms by engaging in paid work outside the home, even when they are the sole family support. The women’s analysis highlighted the importance of understanding the multiple and complex barriers faced by women in accessing livelihoods in the camps. While social and cultural norms in relation to women’s roles were clearly identified as a factor that must be considered, it was neither the sole nor primary factor, as all groups also emphasised the high risks of SGBV related to women and girls livelihoods. These include high risks of trafficking, the high risks of rape and sexual abuse by employers including of very young girls working as maids. For many women and their families’, it was the terror of rape and sexual abuse which is the major barrier to women and girls working.

Society and respective leader don’t allow them to do any job or work. Because of safety concern issue [that] they will be sexually assaulted. When they do any job, society reject them…nobody [will] marry them that’s why parents don’t allow

Refugee woman

Women are even further disadvantaged as ‘women are not accepted by society to have a job’. (Refugee man)

The few jobs available to women also put them at very high risk of sexual abuse at the hands of their employers, including while working with NGOs in the camps.

Sometimes women need the livelihood activity, and they go to the organisation and share with them. People give the negative proposal, if you do sex with me, I will give you opportunity. Some of the supervisors the NGO [say this].

Consultation facilitator

Because there are few formal livelihood opportunities in the camps for men, and even fewer for women there is an inevitable movement of people seeking work outside the camps. However, the insecurity of work outside the camps results in serious exploitation and risk of arrest for those individuals who willingly, or who are forced to work outside the camps.

Their daily earning would be BDT300-400($3-$4USD). They are in cultivation, collecting woods. Refugees go to Chawkbazar [in Chittagong] and charcoal factory. There are good number of refugees earning in Chittagong until they are caught. Women do not go so willingly. They will go when they are promised jobs, marriage and good life [but end up in forced prostitution]  

Male facilitator

Barriers to safe livelihoods include lack of education and skills development for females and males, discrimination, a lack of suitable work for people with a disability, discrimination against the LBTI community, and an unfair, preferential allocation of available jobs by the influential male refugee community members.  

Who have relation with influential male refugees, they get job. Most of the young men are unemployed. For getting a job, huge bribe money have to be paid to influential group.  

Refugee man
She is pregnant .., so she has to go to work. She has to leave the children alone without any supervision, without any education because there is no day care. She is at the chance of SGBV by the owner, by the boss, even though she is pregnant. So this is how these problems affect this woman’s life” (Refugee Woman 2019)

Livelihoods & Jobs – Older Women:

The major work opportunity for older women is to care for their grandchildren. It was mentioned that they are seldom if ever given opportunities for livelihood training, despite having many skills, both due to cultural reasons, and as long term survivors in the camps.

Some elderly women and men and divorced (‘abandoned’) women are forced to beg.

Livelihoods & Jobs – LBTI Women:

Unless they elected to keep their sexuality hidden, stigma and marginalisation exclude LBTI women from training and job opportunities.

Livelihoods & Jobs – Women with disability:

Lack of access to education, marginalisation and structural barriers all combined to exclude women with a disability from job opportunities, even though some of them have high levels of skills and knowledge. “They might be very good at weaving or know a lot but [because they have a disability] no-one listens to them”.

Livelihoods & Jobs – Widows:

This group was identified as one of the most impoverished and vulnerable groups, facing enormous challenges to keep themselves and their children alive. For reasons cross-cutting all of the themes, they were unable to access training or safe and legal jobs.