‘I only have one dream — to live a life of laughter and happiness with my husband and child.’

Kurshida was born in Bangladesh and grew up in Kutupalong Registered Camp. Her father fled Myanmar as a teenager almost 30 years ago, to avoid mandatory mobilization with the Myanmar army. Her parents nicknamed her Khushi, which means ‘happy’ in Rohingya and Bangla, because of her joyful and carefree nature.

‘I used to love to play games when I was young,’ she says. ‘Now, I have one goal: to bring up my daughter properly. I sew clothing on the side, whenever I have free time, to bring in extra money. And I love passing the skills I’ve learned to other people. I learned to sew from a girl in-camp, and I am inspired to be like her.’ Sewing has given Kurshida a pastime, enhancing her livelihood and dignity while offering a way to contribute to the community. Today, she facilitates a women’s embroidery group at IOM’s Cultural Memory Centre.

During the COVID-19 lockdown in Cox’s Bazar, Kurshida is busy making face masks with her sewing machine. She produces around 30 masks per day and distributes them to her close relatives, embroidery artists and their families.

Kurshida, 20 years old

“Masks are important because they protect from dust, coronavirus and disease,’ she says. ‘I feel privileged to contribute something in these difficult circumstances. Maybe I can help protect many lives.”

Through IOM’s Cultural Memory Centre (CMC), Rohingya refugee artisans (like Kurshida) and cultural practitioners are engaged to research, document and re/produce their own heritage. The CMC focuses on refugee voices by providing necessary tools, a platform to share material and skills-development opportunities to help express collective and individual memories and aspirations - that together - constitute the Rohingya experience.

With restrictions on movement in place to curtail the impact of COVID-19 in the district, the CMC team continues to work remotely on a number of projects to help preserve Rohingya culture and strengthen their collective identity.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect individuals across the district, IOM and partners seek to scale up support to refugees and ensure that Rohingya voices carry around the globe.