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.


Opportunities to stay: preventing irregular migration in Nicaragua

Categoria: Migration and Development
Autor: Jean Pierre Mora


In Central America, different cities face different problems generating employment opportunities and quality education for their young populations.

Those obstacles cause the young to migrate—usually to other cities or countries in the hope of improving their living conditions. Unfortunately, in most cases, this international migration occurs irregularly, exposing young people to different risks and dangerous conditions.

Due to the economic and social situation faced by these young people, the alternative to migration in many cities of Central America is to leave their studies to work or to get involved in gangs and criminal activities in the most regrettable cases.

This is the situation in Bilwi, a municipality of the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (RACCN). This city needs more and better opportunities for its young inhabitants who, in many neighborhoods, are prone to get involved in drugs and crime—thanks to an overwhelmingly easy access to narcotics.

To meet this challenge, the International Organization for Migration, IOM, launched the "Project for the Prevention and Reintegration of Youth at Risk and Conflict with the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua Act," funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The project seeks to promote effective opportunities to for social and economic inclusion of young people at risk and in conflict with the law. This initiative is based on the idea that by supporting social and economic inclusion of this population, they will contribute to the construction of more equitable, productive and peaceful communities.

To do so, activities were carried out via three major channels:

  1. Improve the local service delivery in order to achieve the social and economic inclusion of young people at risk.
  2. Promote relevant skills and competencies among young participants to facilitate their access to the labor market.
  3. Involve local community, private and public actors to generate dialogue on the specific challenges faced by youth in the RACCN that prevent their social and economic inclusion.

Furthermore, participants attended group sessions (mixed, female-only, and male-only groups) to learn about issues such as violence, gender violence, non-violent masculinities and anger management. Through the sessions, they had the opportunity to elaborate a Personal Development Action Plan after a reflection process on their potential, abilities and interests.





Young participants benefited from vocational courses in different areas such as mechanics, styling, crafts, and basic cooking. This allows them to acquire skills and competencies that facilitate their access and participation in the labor market and in their community.







Patty Moore is one of the beneficiaries of this project. She is 28 years old and is originally from Bilwi, specifically from the El Muelle neighborhood, one of the areas with high rates of crime and drug trafficking. There she lives with her two children: an eight-year-old and a one-year-old.

A few years ago, Patty was trapped in that world of drugs and alcohol because, she says, it was "normal." For a while, she was a drug user like many of her friends in the same neighborhood. But with the birth of her children, she wanted to turn her life around and get over her addiction to give her children a better future.



Patty says she found in this project an opportunity to reach her goal: to have her own restaurant: "Two Brothers." That's the name she imagines hanging outside her house, where in a few months she hopes to see her dream realized. This is one of the stories among the 130 total participants of the project.


Young people involved in the project worked on their own entrepreneurship plan before starting the vocational skills training.

This pilot project was very successful in Bilwi, having a reach of 150% of the beneficiaries (100% of the initial target beneficiaries and an extra 50%). All the activities implemented by the project had greater demand than expected, which is a clear indicator that this type of project is not only highly appreciated, but also necessary. It is important to mention that the participation of different actors is key to the development of initiatives like this one. In this specific case, it was supported by mothers and fathers of families, government institutions, community leaders and judges, the academy, civil society organizations and business sector associations of Bilwi.




The National Technological Institute of Nicaragua gave a total of approximately 120 hours of theoretical and practical classes as part of the project, which included tools and financial advice that would facilitate the development and sustainability of small businesses.






It is important that we move towards a world in which migration is a voluntary decision and always under safe channels to do so. To achieve this, it is necessary to continue developing initiatives such as this project in Bilwi, in order to build more socially and economically inclusive communities. In this way, irregular migration can be prevented and the decision to move is not forced by the environment. In the words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutérres: "Safe migration cannot be limited to a global elite".


45 young graduates of vocational skills training received seed capital through the delivery of supplies and materials for the start of new ventures in sectors such as mechanics, painting, muralism, home painting, kitchen, bakery/baking, crafts, wood carving and styling.




This story was written by Anabell Cruz Zavala, Media and Communication Officer at IOM Nicaragua; and Jean Pierre Mora, Communications Specialist at IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America, and the Caribbean.