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Year: 2010 Type: Article Language: English

Diasporic Somalis are increasingly leading a transnational life in which family members are sustained through networks of relations, obligations and resources that are located in different nation-states. These networks and relations enable diasporic Somalis to seek safety for themselves and their relatives, minimize risks and maximize family resources. In this article, Mulki Al-Sharmani examines three key dimensions of such a way of life, namely: migration; remittances; and transnational family care. She focuses on the roles that women play in this family-based support system. For instance, women move and facilitate the movement of other family members; they remit to family members; and they provide care for children and sick relatives. But these transnational households are not free from tensions. Family members are placed in hierarchical relations shaped by age; parental authority; possession of western citizenship; financial resources; and bonds of familial reciprocity and gratitude. Women gain appreciation from relatives and a sense of self-respect for their new roles. Some of the women also make use of the family network to arrange for the care of their children and sick relatives, while they engage in transnational trading activities. However, young and single female relatives often sacrifice or delay their individual dreams because of their familial obligations. Mulki concludes that transnationalism – as a way of organizing and sustaining livelihood, resources and relations of Somali families – is not always emancipating or marginalizing for Somali women. Rather the benefits and challenges of such a way of life for women are different, mixed and uneven.

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