In Keruntali Rohingya camp of Teknaf, where stories of sexual harassment and rapes at night are ubiquitous, anything that comes in handy for women to stave off unwanted advances is a huge blessing.
That is why Kamalida, 18, thinks that her small hand-held device, which gives off the high-pitched ambulance wail at the press of a button, is of great support for refugee women.
“To be able to leave the tent knowing that I would be able to let others know when I am attacked, is a relief. It reduces the fear to some extent,” she said.
She added that most people in the camp know what the siren is about and are likely to come out and look for its source when it goes off.
She came to Teknaf with her elderly father in late August when the Myanmar armed forces’ crackdown on Rohingya villages in Maungdaw began.
Since her father is paralysed and bed-ridden, she is the one who has to run errands.
Over 5,549 unaccompanied or separated Rohingya children have come to Bangladesh, according to the Unicef, UNHCR and Save the Children data. These children are particularly at risk of being trafficked and abused.
The small device, called a “rape alarm” by Rohingya women, can be useful for those children, Mohammed Anik, project coordinator of Moonlight Development Society, told The Daily Star.
The NGO has distributed 175 such devices among women aged between 12 and 25.
“The girls are really vulnerable. We have been trying to come up with something that is cheap and could at least be of help for the time being. Then we designed the battery-run device which is also a torch,” Anik added.
Marufa Munni, manager of a medical camp run by the organisation, said, “We trained the people in the camps on how they should respond when they hear the siren. We need more such devices in other Rohingya settlements as well.”
Seventeen-year-old Chomira said she has often been stalked in the camp. “I am often scared. But the alarm gives me some courage.”