Risk Communication for Empowerment: Interventions in a Rohingya Refugee Settlement

Raul P. Lejano, Muhammad Saidur Rahman, Laila Kabir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are many reasons that people, when warned of an impending extreme event, do not take proactive, self-defensive action. We focus on one possible reason, which is that, sometimes, people lack a sense of agency or even experience disempowerment, which can lead to passivity. This article takes up one situation where the possibility of disempowerment is salient, that of Rohingya refugees who were evicted from their homes in Myanmar and forced to cross the border into neighboring Bangladesh. In their plight, we see the twin elements of marginalization and displacement acting jointly to produce heightened vulnerability to the risks from extreme weather. Building on a relational model of risk communication, a consortium of researchers and practitioners designed a risk communication training workshop that featured elements of empowerment-based practice. The program was implemented in two refugee camps. Evaluation suggests that the workshop may have had an appreciable effect in increasing participants' sense of agency and hope, while decreasing their level of fatalism. The outcomes were considerably more positive for female than male participants, which has important implications. This work underscores the potential for participatory modes of risk communication to empower the more marginalized, and thus more vulnerable, members of society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2360-2372
Number of pages13
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Empowerment
  • relational model
  • risk communication
  • Rohingya refugees
  • Myanmar
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Management
  • Refugees/psychology
  • Bangladesh
  • Natural Disasters
  • Female
  • Refugee Camps
  • Power, Psychological
  • Communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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