Migration is gendered, but its policies are gender-neutral
While most countries implement gender-blind measures, Frankenhaeuser addressed the sometimes misleading tendency to address gender and migration from the perspective of protection of vulnerable individuals, rather than focusing on the potential for empowerment of migrant women and girls. The importance of integrating a gender dimension in migration policies was also highlighted.
The EU and gender mainstreaming
MIEUX Project Steering Group member and long-time connoisseur of MIEUX Actions, Camilla Hägstrom, Deputy Head of Unit, Migration, Employment (DG DEVCO), contributed to the Lab by highlighting how migration and gender equality are crucial for development and key priorities for the EU. The theme of the 2018 EDDs “Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development: protect, empower, invest” reflects this commitment, already an essential component to many of its policies, such as the EU Consensus on Development, which links cross-cutting themes such as gender and migration.
With 260 million migrants around the world and just over half of them women, the gender dimension of this phenomenon and its important contribution potential can no longer be ignored. In addressing the question, Hägstrom also highlighted how women and girls are often more vulnerable throughout the migration journey. While the term ‘vulnerable’ can lead to increased protection measures for those perceived as being at particular risk, this term is often contested as labelling all individuals deemed to belong to a specific group as vulnerable may further entrench inequalities and lead to further disempowerment.
How can we empower and protect women through migration policies?
Understanding the challenges women face in their respective countries is essential for the development of effective policies that protect and empower women. It is necessary to produce context specific and situational research that can be used to generate evidence-based policy. This was highlighted by Ana Isabel Garcia, Executive Director La Fundación Género y Sociedad (GESO), Costa Rica, as she addressed some of the key hurdles we face in empowering and protecting women through migration policies. While Costa Rica has a policy on immigration that takes human rights into account, the country does not have a gender dimension in this particular policy. Examples such as this one are often linked to a lack of data and information on the experiences of migrant women and how integrating this dimension in policies can have a beneficial effect. MIEUX has collaborated with GESO and the Costa Rican Government to fill this gap when supporting the formulation of the Second National Integration Plan (2018-2022) by entrusting GESO with the drafting of the “Analysis of the migration context in Costa Rica”.
How can we include gender dimensions in migration policies?
Joseph Teye, Director of the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana and MIEUX Expert in the Action that supported the formulation of the National Migration Policy of the Republic of Sierra Leone, outlined the some of the ways in which to tackle patriarchal norms that confine women to gendered expectations. An increased representation of women in decision-making positions can encourage gender-sensitive policies to come to fruition, just like international cooperation and exchanges between countries, actors or professionals sensitive to this topic. Policies that protect and empower women will only exist if the general public has an awareness of gender dynamics in migration. In order to ensure that gender issues are addressed in every policy, Teye emphasised that gender mainstreaming should be the goal. However, in countries where gender is not usually addressed in the policy-making processes, a ‘hybrid’ approach, where policymakers have access to general information sessions on gender, and a specific section on gender is included within the policy, can make up for this shortcoming.
How can a migration policy
to the needs of migrant women and girls? respond
Lanto Rahajarizafy, Director in charge of the Diaspora at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar, contextualised her intervention by highlighting certain data about women, who represent 40% of the population. Madagascar is considered a country of origin for migrant workers abroad. Labour exploitation in both Europe and the Middle East is an important problem, with many Malagasy domestic workers falling victim to smuggling and trafficking. This realisation helped the government to create measures for the protection of the Malagasy Diaspora employed in low-skilled jobs and domestic work.
Presently, MIEUX is currently supporting the Government of Madagascar in developing a national strategy for diaspora engagement and will be able to incorporate the reflections of this Lab into the preparation of future activities.
The event concluded by providing recommendations for future gender-sensitive policies against the backdrop of the UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees. Concluding the Project Lab, Frankenhaeuser took stock of the event’s discussion and highlighted the most effective measures to strengthen a gendered migration policy cycle.
Take a look at what we propose in the Migration and Gender Factsheet
First, look within
- Organisations and institutions attempting to integrate gender perspectives into their policies should also aim at having internal gender strategies, following the example of DG DEVCO’s Gender Action Plan
During Agenda setting/preparation of policy
- Raise awareness about current global frameworks and how their gender dimensions affect and need to be integrated into national migration policies.
- Capacity building is needed to create a wider understanding of the benefits of improving structures and dynamics
- More research is needed into how women and female migration are specifically affected by various sectoral policies at a national and international level, as well as to understand the specific push and pull factors for women in countries of Origin and Destination.
- Include and address multiple and complex reasons for female migration and gendered root causes in all policies in countries of origin and destination that are developed and in thematic workshops
- When mainstreaming gender in migration policies, it is important not to equate gender to women/girls but to recognise that migration affects women and men differently and might contribute to changing dynamics between them
Policy formulation and implementation
- Include policy measures that increase the protection of female migrants
- Promote the strengthening of social protection policies that overlap with migration that will create a conducive context for women’s empowerment
- Provide recommendations on how other sectoral policies can mainstream gender elements
- A multi-stakeholder approach in migration policy-making is needed in order to ensure the sustainability of policies and to enhance cooperation between different institutions
Incorporate gender-specific targets and measurable indicators that respond to the initial objectives and research undertaken at first stage of the policy cycle