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.


Keys to implement initiatives on migration and development within the framework of the 2030 Agenda

Categoria: Migration and Development
Autor: Marcelo Pisani

Migration is a powerful driver of sustainable development. Migrants represent approximately 3% of the world's population, but they produce more than 9% of world GDP, some $3 trillion more than if they had stayed in their place of origin, according to  data from IOM and McKinsey & Company.

Within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, migrants have the potential to contribute to the development of their host communities through capacity building, increased workforce, investment and cultural diversity. They can also assume a central role in improving the quality of life and revitalizing the economy and the labor market in their countries of origin by transferring skills and financial resources.

However, if the migration is poorly managed it can have a negative impact on the development of the local economy and even endanger migrants and the national labor force. Other factors addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as climate change, labor markets, education, poverty and violence can have an impact on migration.

The 2030 Agenda provides a platform to address this close relationship and maximize opportunities. Decision makers must recognize that the SDGs are interdependent and that, therefore, an action intended to meet specific migration goals should not occur in isolation.

In search of greater synergies and broad participation, IOM developed the "A Guide for practitioners on Migration and Development", which provides ideas and advice to implement aspects of migration in the 2030 Agenda in an integrated manner with other sustainable development initiatives, involving all government levels and all social actors.

Below, we present a series of essential aspects for the implementation of integral initiatives in the field of migration and development:

  1. Participation at the local level. Local governments are in an ideal position to transform the 2030 Agenda into concrete and efficient actions; they can better adapt the goals and objectives of the Agenda to specific contexts, communicate and encourage the importance of local action for citizens and play a crucial role in the provision of services. It is vital that local actors are included in the process of designing and implementing national policies so that they are an integral part of them and that they can contribute to its functioning.
  2. Horizontal participation. Migration has complex relationships with different sectors of government. To address them adequately and work for sustainable and well-managed migration governance, governments must adopt an intersectoral approach. For example, promote a process through which migration is integrated into policies in areas such as health, education, employment and social security.
  3. Follow up of relevant structures and mechanisms. It involves evaluating the institutions, strategies, legislation, policy frameworks, plans and projects that are relevant in relation to the priority goals of the SDGs and will help to map and analyze possible synergies and compensations among the related interventions with migration. In addition, it allows identifying inconsistencies and preventing duplication of efforts.
  4. Mobilization of resources. It is necessary to identify the funding sources of the interventions. If this is done within the framework of a broader SDG implementation process, the implementing agencies should follow the implicit resource mobilization strategies. If not, or in addition to this, they will be able to write a resource mobilization plan to show which proposed interventions require additional resources and which strategies to approach partners.
  5. Develop and implement an action plan. Government actors must formally adopt plans. If the actions are carried out as part of a broader implementation of the SDGs, they should follow the formal planning processes that this entails. Otherwise, they must draft an operational ODS-migration action plan. This will summarize the priority objectives of the SDGs, the interventions to address them and provide more details on their design and implementation.

Here you can consult the guide with information and tips for the implementation of initiatives.


Marcelo Pisani is the Regional Director of IOM for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. Mr. Pisani has 18 years of experience in project management, development of public policies, and in other areas related to fight poverty and the care of vulnerable populations in emergency situations. Previously he served as IOM's Chief of Mission in Colombia and Zimbabwe, and worked for the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). He is an architect of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.