09 May Beyond Survival – A Safe Space for Rohingya Women & Girls / Rizvi Hassan
Beyond Survival – A Safe Space for Rohingya Women & Girls / Rizvi Hassan
Text description provided by the architects. Rohingya refugees have been fighting with vulnerabilities in terms of basic shelter, health, nutrition, and emotional state for a quiet while now. One of the largest and most dense camps has become the temporary home of almost a million refugees. That includes hundreds & thousands of young minds who are going through the most vital changes in terms of age and current state.
UN agencies, Bangladesh Govt. & other organizations like BRAC & Unicef are supporting them in this difficult time so that in the future they become less of a burden rather than healthier minds that are ready to contribute. The center offers adolescent girls & women from the surrounding camp area- a place to have a good bath a day, a place to complain about abuse and violence, and a place where they can learn to create & share, thus a safe home.
The male participants from the camp were eager to get their family members (wife, daughter, mother, sister) involved with the center activities whereas there have been reports about restrictions and unwillingness in other centers. The center becomes more vibrant and personalized by the colorful patterns painted by the community. “Quarrel among women and neighborhoods is a common scenario in the camps. I believe if women get the opportunity to gather in a center like this, they will learn to keep peace wherever they go or live’’ -says Kala Hossain, one of the masons as he worked with us during construction.
Materials used in Safe Space for Women & Girls are very basic and available nearby. Untreated bamboo (as built on an emergency basis and will decay in few years and need to be replaced with treated bamboo) as structure, straw/hay with tarpaulin as a roofing material (requires a change in the 1-year interval and can be replaced with alternative durable materials for longer use). The site falls within a cyclone-prone area and so we had to avoid materials that can be hazardous during a cyclone.
It is also very near to the Asian elephant habitat and one can often see elephants getting down from the hills in the backgrounds. The material and exterior scheme avoids disturbance for elephants. The power of form is universal and timeless. A very basic introvert court ensures privacy & freedom for women of comparatively a conservative society. The interior court connects the surrounding rooms into one space. The activity space & rooms are comparatively smaller than other centers but openings towards the courtyard give the essence of a larger space.
The exterior of the structure is ragged and tries to blend within the context (camouflage). The texture, color & setting are inspired by often seen ‘Paner Boroj’ (Betel leaf shades) within rice fields. On the other hand, the interior has the colors vibrant enough to make a cheerful essence. We have heard stories, how women of the community went through brutality and sacrifices to save their families. And then it is relieving to see their men working with love to make safer spaces for them.