HRTS Practice Program to study arts-based intervention among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

June 30, 2021
Rohingya kids in art class in Bangladesh

Rohingya kids in art class in Bangladesh

William Simmons

The University of Arizona Institutes for Reslience  (AIR) has awarded a grant to Human Rights Practice Director William Simmons and a team of Human Rights Practice graduate students to develop a concept paper on an arts-based intervention among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.  The study staff will include students McKenna Braaton, Abigail Nelson, Candice Montaño, and Atka Rani along with Rohingya collaborators.  The grant was provided through AIR's "Grants for Concept Papers on Resilience Research for Development Challenges" program, and the winning project proposal is excerpted below.


"Measuring Individual-Level Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth in International Development: The Case of an Arts-Based Intervention among Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh"

How do we measure individual-level resilience and its corollary post-traumatic growth in an international development context? Can culturally specific measures be developed that are also translatable across contexts? Our team has an excellent opportunity to address such questions through our partnership with the NGO Artolution ( that works with refugees in a range of contexts; most notably, the Rohingya in Bangladesh, Venezuelans in Colombia, South Sudanese in Uganda, and Syrians in Jordan. They have developed an acclaimed participatory arts curriculum—with a well-developed theory of change—that is trauma informed and culturally specific. In brief, their method is to locate and train local artists among the refugee community who implement a participatory arts curriculum with children and other vulnerable groups. The public arts production (often murals) is tied to learning modules on such topics as identity, gender-based violence, environmental degradation, peacebuilding, and trauma. Their work has been recently featured in The New York Times and has been funded by UNICEF, UNHCR, USAID, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Open Society, and many others.

Artolution has asked UArizona’s Human Rights Practice program along with researchers at North South University (NSU) in Bangladesh to develop a participatory Monitoring & Evaluation protocol to quantitatively measure their programs’ impact. During a recent community-based participatory action research class our team worked with Artolution to begin to develop measures for measuring identity, resilience, and post-traumatic growth among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The proposed concept paper will allow us to continue working with Artolution, their Rohingya partners, and the NSU faculty to develop measures and protocols that can be piloted in the Rohingya context and then translated to fit other Artolution locations. This grant and partnership offer a unique opportunity to develop and eventually field test transnationally and transculturally validated measures of individual-level resilience and posttraumatic growth informed by on-the-ground actors in critical refugee contexts.