The burning dilemma of gender in migration


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A study issued by the ODI reports that women and girls are more vulnerable to violence and abuse when they are uprooted from their homes, especially if they are not accompanied by male relatives. Human trafficking may also become more prevalent.

Women may struggle with the additional demands of performing both traditional male and female roles within the family when displacement results in female-headed families. Female migrants may be coerced into prostitution or sex work to survive or provide for their families (particularly in circumstances of forced migration or displacement). Displacement can alter social and gender norms, putting more strain on men and women alike, as well as increasing women’s and girls’ vulnerability.

Male refugees living in makeshift camps may no longer be able to support their families as breadwinners. As families undergo psychosocial trauma and male refugees battle with feelings of inadequacy and loss of power within the family, domestic violence by a spouse or family member may increase. Women and girls in refugee camps are often responsible for gathering the family’s firewood and water, which often takes them beyond the camp gates, where they are more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based abuse. Women and girls are more vulnerable to assault from other refugees, even within camps.

UNWomen reports that women account for half of the world’s 272 million migrants and 42% of the estimated 164 million migrant workers today. When it comes to work, migrant women make up 63.5 percent of the workforce, compared to roughly 48 percent of non-migrant women. While the majority of migrant women work in the service sector, such as domestic work and healthcare, they also work in a variety of other fields, including financial and scientific institutions, university, government, and many more. Many migrant women are motivated by the desire for better job possibilities and higher earnings.

In a poll of migrant women from Libya, East Africa, and West Africa, between 33 and 37 percent said their travel was motivated by low incomes in their home countries. Despite the promise of increased economic prospects, the reality in destination nations and at each stage of the migratory route is frequently quite different. The absence of safe and regular migration routes, as well as gender-responsive migration policy, has serious short- and long-term effects. This is especially true for the many migrant women who work in the informal economy, where labor protections are either not enforced or are not enforced at all, putting them at danger of labor rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence, racism, and xenophobia.

To institutionally fight these types of discriminatory practices, the International Organization for Migration – IOM provide several types of gender-related training to satisfy diverse staff capacity development needs based on its capacity assessment. Gender focal points, regional project development officers, regional thematic specialists (and other staff members as needed) will get practical tools and dedicated training from the Gender Coordination Unit. This will allow them to assist all other project personnel in gender mainstreaming throughout the project cycle. The Gender Coordination Unit will take the lead in offering gender training at the strategy and project levels for top managers, in collaboration with the Talent Management Unit.

All workers will have access to the UN-Women generic training on gender mainstreaming, which will be provided by the Talent Management Unit. This course will be required of all employees and will be offered in English, French, and Spanish. The implementation strategy addresses the monitoring of staff completion of this training. As part of their application to the Department of Operations and Emergencies emergency deployment roster, staff members will be required to take the InterAgency Standing Committee (IASC) online course “Different Needs – Equal Opportunities: Increasing Effectiveness of Humanitarian Action for Women, Girls, Boys, and Men”. A session on gender mainstreaming will be included in the project development and implementation training, and the importance of gender analysis will be highlighted throughout all of the above-mentioned training.

Written by: Nenad Stekić

Submitted on: 24.11.2021.

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