Empowering Caribbean women through migration


To fully understand the Caribbean region, one must look at migration and its effects. This region has experienced - and is still experiencing - several migratory movements which have contributed to the configuration of Caribbean societies. The feminization of migration, the emigration of skilled professionals to developed countries and intra-regional migration are some of the current trends in the region.

A recent research conducted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and IOM, the UN Migration Agency on “Women’s empowerment and migration in the Caribbean” indicates that "migration represents an opportunity to empower women and boost their autonomy." Their individual conditions or situations will shape their lives in the countries of origin, transit and destination and determine the nature of the migration process.

This is an important point to emphasize when major Caribbean populations reside in Canada (365,000), the Dominican Republic (334,000), and Spain (280,000), and when approximately 55 per cent of the 4 million Caribbean migrants residing in the United States were female in 2013. Additionally, in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, women account for more than 50 per cent of migrants, and in Barbados the number is as high as 60 per cent.

Empowerment is a difficult concept to define, and so is the assessment of its impact on migration. The United Nations developed five components to better explain women’s empowerment: women’s sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to have access to opportunities and resources; their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.

Empowerment will only take place if women are given the chance to migrate through regular channels, access decent jobs, develop professional skills, benefit from the provisions of immigration admission policies and the socio-economic environment of the host country. However, if Caribbean women migrate irregularly they could be subject to further vulnerabilities, abuse and violation of their human rights, and their fear of being arrested, detained or deported will prevent them from seeking health or social services.

Data on labour force participation rates in the Caribbean shows that gender disparity in the labour market remains a matter of deep concern, showing that males were more active in the labour force than females: many women perform domestic jobs, often without access to social protection, and mostly as providers of low-paid caregiving work. In other professions such as nurses, doctors or teachers overseas, Caribbean women tend to migrate due to the high demand for these professions and better-paid opportunities in developed countries.

Migration and women’s empowerment are linked at every stage of the migration process. There is clear evidence that migration not only brings major benefits to women in financial independence, but also in terms of household tasks. As ECLAC and IOM research shows: “When men migrated first and resided abroad for years before their wives joined them, the men learned household tasks and were more willing to assist their spouses when the two were reunited.”

Women, regardless of their migratory status, are rights holders and States are responsible for ensuring those rights. Current migration in the Caribbean region raises many questions, reveals opportunities and challenges, but still lacks gender equality policies and agreements. This study has developed an array of specific recommendations for countries of transit and destination, including those in the Caribbean, for the private sector and the international community.

If you are interested in learning more about the proposed recommendations of the research on Women’s empowerment and migration in the Caribbean, you will find them here: https://www.cepal.org/es/node/44891


About the author:

Gustavo Segura is currently supporting the IOM Regional Communications Unit for Central America, North America and the Caribbean as an intern. He has a Master’s Degree in International Relations with emphasis in International Cooperation from the University Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, and a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Political Science from the University Lumière Lyon 2.


Water and Migration: Implications for Policy Makers

A child accessing fresh water in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM
Categoria: Environmental Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor


The international community has, for good reason, sought to emphasize the importance of migration as a global public policy issue.

With heightened awareness of the multiple implications of poorly managed migration, and with the international community focused on developing a new global compact to address it, the opportunity for a more nuanced, more sophisticated approach to migration has presented itself.

With this has come the opportunity to better understand migration and its links with other policy issues that at first thought might seem unrelated.

Take, for example, the issue of water.

Owing to its centrality to sustainable development and, indeed, to life as we know it, water and its relationship to migration is an emerging field of study that requires attention and action.

Although the links are not always straightforward, researchers have nonetheless begun to delve deeper into the issue in order to better chart the implications of these two policy domains and their intersections.

It is an important part of the broader analysis of the links between migration, environment and climate change.

So, what are the links between migration and water, and what can policymakers do to take account of them?


Una niña en el asentamiento de Kutupalong en Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, bebe agua de un pozo construido por la OIM. Foto: Muse Mohammed / OIM

A girl in the Kutupalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh drinks water from a deep tube well constructed by IOM. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM


In general, most analyses of migration and water issues focus on two separate factors. The first of these are the potential impacts of water scarcity on migration patterns.

Simply put, a lack of water — whether as a result of drought, the most severe outcome of water scarcity — or other causes, is sometimes considered a factor that drives migration, in particular within countries or in some cases within regions.

However, it is often difficult to pinpoint water scarcity as being a sole, or even a direct factor, driving migration. A range of other socio-economic, political and environmental issues, acting cumulatively, are more easily identifiable as being decisive than any single factor acting alone.

Nevertheless, lack of water security does significantly increase the potential for migration, largely because of its impact on well-being and livelihoods.

Already, the World Water Development Report (WWDR) 2016 has reported that water scarcity resulting from drought and groundwater depletion has led to increased rural to urban migration in parts of the Arab region, with potential for similar movements in Africa. Water stress was also identified as one of the key driving factors in Asia as well, with research available from Iraq, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal.

Quantitative data from IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has similarly begun to demonstrate the migratory impacts of drought in parts of Africa. The latest drought induced displacement figures collected by DTM during 2017 estimated more than 475,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ethiopia (December 2017), over 1.2 million individuals in Somalia (November 2016 — November 2017) and more than 14,000 in Madagascar (November 2017).

In addition to the current levels of migration linked to water, climate change predictions suggest that people might also be forced to move because of changes in the hydrological cycle and as a result of increasing global temperatures.

The second issue that is most commonly addressed in discussions on the migration and water nexus is the impact of migration on freshwater resources. This involves looking at both the environmental challenges of population growth attributable to migration, especially in the context of urbanization, and the environmental footprint of forced migration (displacement).

The SDGs provide several entry points to address the links between migration and water in line with the 2030 Agenda’s overall ambition of leaving no one behind. First, a number of the SDGs provide guidance to address environmental migration related to water scarcity by building resilience in the face of environmental changes and ensuring human right to water, including:

  • Ending poverty by building resilience of vulnerable populations to extreme events under Goal 1.
  • Achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture and strengthening capacity for adaptation to environmental changes under Goal 2.
  • Reducing the number of people suffering from water scarcity under Goal 6.
  • Promoting the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies under Goal 10.
  • Reducing the number of deaths and people affected by disasters through effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices and strengthening development planning for resilient cities and settlements under Goal 11.
  • Building adaptive capacity in the face of climate change and integrating climate change measures in policies under Goal 13.

Second, the environment related Sustainable Development Goals, and especially SDG 6 on sustainable management of water and sanitation can help align migration management and governance with an environmentally sensitive approach to ensure freshwater resources are sustainably managed.

Such environmentally conscious migration policymaking and migration conscious water policymaking are key in a world in which urbanization rates keep rising, where levels of displacement are at their highest in decades and where the impacts of climate change on the water cycle have just started manifesting themselves.

Policymakers have the power to act proactively to manage migration in the context of water scarcity as well as look after freshwater resources where migration takes place. This requires working across ministries and institutional silos in the way the 2030 Agenda requires.


This story was posted by IOM’s Eva Mach and Christopher Richter, and was first published in the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.