Migration and Gender: between protection and empowerment

As the Factsheet describes, women compose roughly 48% of migrant stock worldwide and have always migrated in similar proportion to men. However, in recent years, the term ‘feminisation of migration’ reflects the growing tendency of women and girls to migrate on their own and no longer just because of family reunification.

This brings new challenges, connected to increased vulnerability during the migration cycle, but also new opportunities, as migrant women and girls gain access to employment, education and financial resources. It seems that gender within migration is currently perceived, and legislated on, from the perspective of two opposing poles: protection and empowerment.

As a capacity building facility, MIEUX has supported the development of migration-related policies on more than 30 occasions since 2009. Taking into account this experience, MIEUX analysed some of its most recent Actions in the area of policy development in Costa Rica, Madagascar, Mauritius and Sierra Leone to review how the concept of gender had been tackled with a view to extracting some forward-thinking recommendations for the future.

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From preliminary assessment, MIEUX has concluded that on the one hand, migration policy-making has frequently favoured a gender-neutral approach. On the other hand, there has been a tendency to focus on women just as vulnerable groups, therefore neglecting the agency of women and girls in relation to migration, development, and security.

Moreover, although gender mainstreaming also includes men and boys, it’s also interesting to note that when analysing protection measures for migrants, the majority of these refer to women who are framed as a group vulnerable to multiple and specific forms of exploitation.

Acknowledging the central role that gender plays throughout the migration process and experience is the starting point for further development and implementation of gender-sensitive policies.  Based on these findings, MIEUX suggests a few ways to move forward towards a more inclusive and empowering approach in public policy-making:

  • In the planning stage, MIEUX proposes that gender is mainstreamed, and especially analysed as a defining factor in migration, understanding that gender is a dimension that includes men and boys
  • In the policy formulation and adoption stage, MIEUX suggests Include policy measures that increase the protection of female migrants, such as developing visa schemes for domestic workers and care workers, following the examples of Germany, Italy and United Kingdom; the strengthening of social protection policies; and conducting an assessment of how other sectoral policies could mainstream a gender dimension
  • In the evaluation stage, gender-specific indicators that correspond to the main objectives set in the policy can ensure suitable follow-up and monitoring mechanisms for policy-makers and/or organisations

Aside from this, capacity building is needed to create a wider understanding of the benefits of improving structures and dynamics of gender relations. MIEUX is a useful tool that can, on the one hand, sensitise partner countries to the importance by including gender in its capacity building activities and creating a stronger understanding of the relevance of including a gender perspective in migration policies. Every future intervention should include provisions on gender to underline its importance.

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Today’s publication is one of many activities taking place throughout 2018 to commemorate the ten years of existence of the MIEUX initiative: combined with a series of events during 2018, MIEUX wishes to reflect upon its achievements while offering new and consolidated practical examples of cooperation between EU and partner countries in all areas of migration.

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