Gender and Migration

In this issue: 

200 million people around the world live outside their country of origin and more people are moving within borders. Gender roles, relations and inequalities affect who migrates, how, why, and where they end up. This Gender Update highlights some of the issues and suggests key resources for further reading.

February 2016
Issue number: 

It is estimated that one billion of the world’s seven billion people are migrants (UNDP 2009). Migration journeys take place within countries, regions and internationally.

In 2015, the number of international migrants – people living in a country other than where they were born – was 244 million (UNDESA 2015). Globally, women make up just under half of international migrants. At the end of 2014, 38 million people were displaced within their own countries due to conflict and violence (Bilak et al 2015). During the same period, 19.3 million people worldwide were internally displaced as a result of geophysical and climate and weather related disasters (Yonetani 2015).

Decisions to migrate may be forced, in situations of conflict and disaster, or they may involve different degrees of choice and agency, and combinations of motivation and coercion. They are always, however, made in response to a complex mixture of social, economic and political pressures, incentives and norms (Jolly and Reeves 2005). Characteristics such as gender and age (along with others such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, class and disability) play a strong role in influencing whether particular groups of people migrate, or stay where they are.

Migration patterns are highly gendered. In the past it was often assumed that men usually migrated for employment or education, while women moved for marriage or family reunification. Increasingly, the picture has become much more diverse, for both women and men, with more women now migrating for education or employment purposes. Conflict and climate change has also influenced the gender specificity of migration patterns, as well as unequal and discriminatory social norms and institutions which often play a key role in shaping female south-south migration decisions.

Just as there are many different reasons why people migrate, there are also diverse experiences of migration and displacement, influenced by a range of social, economic and political factors.

Migration can lead to a greater degree of economic and/or social autonomy for women, and the opportunity to challenge traditional or restrictive gender roles. Through migration, both men and women may develop skills or earn higher wages, some of which they can send back to their country of origin as remittances.

However, migration can also entrench restrictive gender stereotypes of women's dependency and lack of decision-making power. Gender affects how people are able to contribute to and benefit from their destination community - and how, therefore, they are able to ultimately play a part in achieving basic goals of both social and economic development.

Coming soon: A new BRIDGE extended briefing on gender, age and migration. Watch this space!

Image from UN Photo. ID 443285 24/06/2010

Supporting Resources: 

The following is a selection of key resources related to the topics of Gender and Migration, which have recently been added to the BRIDGE global resources database. 

You can search for more resources on the BRIDGE website.

A new profile of migrants in the aftermath of the recent economic crisis

Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people have been displaced due to natural disasters every year. This equates to roughly one person every second. Addressing this issue represents a huge challenge for all concerned, and has led policymakers to push for a concerted, comprehensive effort involving humanitarian assistance, development, climate change, and disaster risk reduction sectors to work in unison.

Global Overview 2015: People internally displaced by conflict and violence

Drawing on data gathered from national governments, the UN and other international agencies, national and international NGOs, human rights organisations, media reports and IDPs themselves, this report provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of internal displacement around the world.

Initial Assessment Report: protection risks for women and girls in the European refugee and migrant crisis

The bulk of the report presents the findings from the initial assessment on women’s and girls’ protection and responses. The authors profile the population, and examines risks in countries of origin, on migrant routes, and in Greece and Macedonia. The report also discusses the protective responses of the Greek and Macedonian governments and gives recommendations addressing different stakeholders.

The role of discriminatory social institutions in female South-South migration

This paper, produced by the OECD Development Centre, seeks to fill the knowledge gap in female South-South migration through analysis of the findings of their Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). The paper provides an overview of the trends and drivers of female migration, and on the potential impact of levels of gender inequality and discrimination in social institutions in origin countries on women’s destination choices (or lack thereof). Finally, the paper focuses on the influential role of gender discrimination in destination countries as a factor in South-South female migration patterns.

Policy brief: female migrants

This policy brief by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) argues that policymakers have yet to acknowledge the particular challenges and risks faced by migrating women and girls and bring their issues to the forefront of the migration and development agenda.

Women on the run: first-hand accounts of refugees fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico

This study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) brings together first-hand accounts of women refugees in the United States who have fled the Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). The report highlights the reasons why women decided to flee their homes and examines the status of women as refugees under international law. It also proposes a number of recommendations to deal with the crisis at hand.

Women and girls failed: the Burundian refugee response in Tanzania

Since April 2015, political instability and violence has rocked Burundi, forcing an estimated 220,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries. Approximately half of these refugees are women, and around half of the many women who reported gender-based violence (GBV) upon reaching refugee camps in Tanzania required post-rape care. Researches from Refugee International traveled to Burundi, Tanzania, and Rwanda in September/October of 2015 to assess the protection needs of newly-displaced Burundians. The authors conclude that all stakeholders have essentially failed women refugees and that more expertise, resources, and funding must be invested to significantly improve the situation of refugee women and girls. A number of recommendations are suggested.
Image from UN Photo. ID 443285 24/06/2010
In the news: 

EMERGE Blog series

A new blog series has been launched by the EMERGE project  (Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Gender Equality) which focuses on engaging men and boys in gender equality initiatives. The blogs, written by EMERGE partners and featuring good practice examples of work with men and boys for gender equality, will be published regularly in the run up to the sixtieth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2016.