ISTANBUL, TURKEY—Meeting in Istanbul on the eve of the intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development, the Women and Global Migration Working Group (WGMWG) will urge greater attention to situations of migrant women, who make up half of the increasing number of global migrants and refugees.
According to WGMWG, “migrant women are bearers of rights, not simply remittance-‐generating ‘agents of development.’” The group challenges the stereotype of migrant women, in particular, as “victims,” and argues that migrant women, increasingly, are “shifting gender roles,” playing leadership roles in labor organizing and seeking social protections for their families and communities.
United Nations figures count over 232 million people in migration around the world, and unofficial figures place that number much higher. The leap in the proportion of women migrants has prompted the phrase, “the feminization of migration,” and is giving rise to particular concerns about the experience and conditions of women in the migration process. Advocates and migration experts have raised concerns about the “root causes” that underlie the increased number of women leaving their home countries for safety and for economic survival.
With this in mind, Milka Isinta, who lives in Kenya and is a member of Pan Africans in Defense of Migrant Rights (PANiDMR), commented that the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide some good provisions concerning women in migration. “However,” she says, “The goals fail to address the structural changes needed to transform and improve the lived realities of women.” She continued, “Unfortunately, the economic model which the SDGs rely upon actually perpetuates inequalities and relies on the unpaid labour of women and girls. In many developing countries, this will just continue to force women to migrate in search of economic survival for themselves and their families.”
With images of Syrian refugees flowing into parts of Europe dominating global media, the Working Group is calling for full respect for human rights and humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, whether refugees or “forced migrants, in order for safe and orderly migration to take place.”
Carol Barton, with the United Methodist Women in New York and a member of WGMWG, will serve as the “Rapporteur on Women” during the Civil Society Days (CSD) preceding the intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) taking place on 15-‐16 October in Istanbul. She commented, “We’re concerned that some countries, in addressing the new migration flows, have instituted crackdowns and restrictions on mobility to ‘bring order to chaos’. This is unacceptable. States need to open safe channels for migration to avoid abuse and deaths at international borders.”
For the first time, the Civil Society Days (CSD) that will precede the GFMD is including two “cross-‐cutting” issues: children and women, recognizing the rising significance of these two sectors in migration. The Working Group has drafted a “bridging” paper for the CSD to emphasize the intersection of women and gender perspectives on several issues being addressed. On the issue of migrant empowerment, the paper notes, “As survivors of xenophobia, labour exploitation, exclusion from social protections, and physical and sexual violence, migrant women have not simply been victims, but have organized for political, social and economic rights.” Yet, WGMWG claims that these stories remain largely overlooked in the media and public discourse.
The Women and Global Migration Working Group (www.wgmwg.org) with participation from several global regions, was founded in Istanbul in 2012 to place a spotlight on the intersection of women and global migration. Its members work in the areas of migrants’ and women’s rights, worker organizing, academia, social services, faith-‐based advocacy, and more.
Available for media interviews in Istanbul (may be reached through email or whatsapp):
Monami Maulik, (can also speak in Bengali) former director, DRUM: Organizing South Asian Workers (New York) monamimaulik15(at)gmail.com
Nunu Kidane, Priority Africa Network (US) and Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights, nunukidane(at)att.net
Carol Barton (can also speak Spanish), United Methodist Women (New York) cbarton(at)unitedmethodistwomen.org
Catherine Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (US) ctactaquin(at)nnirr.org
Berenice Valdez Rivera (can also speak Spanish), Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración AC (Mexico) berevrnice(at)gmail.com
Behshid Najafi (can also speak Farsi/German) Information and Counseling Center for Female Migrants and Refugees (Germany) Najafi(at)agisra.org
Roshan Dadoo (can also speak in Afrikans) Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) (South Africa) roshan(at)cormsa.org.za
Michele Levoy (can also speak French) Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants – PICUM (Belgium) michele.levoy(at)picum.org