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.

 


Migrants´ Perspective: Migration Journeys and decision-making

Migrants´ Perspective: Migration Journeys and decision-making
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

 

For the fifth consecutive year IOM Missing Migrants Project reports that more than 4,000 people are believed to have died or gone missing on migratory routes across the globe. In 2018 alone, 393 deaths were registered on the US-Mexico border. Likewise, the US Border Patrol has reported that, from 1998 to 2016, over 6900 people have died trying to cross irregularly.

Media, NGOs and government initiatives, such as Mexico´s “Programa Frontera Sur”, have increased the visibility of dangerous and sometimes deadly migration journeys, yet there are still migrants attempting to cross rivers, deserts and other barriers through irregular pathways. 

In the face with these risks and considering that, apparently, the decision to migrate is affected both by external factors (economic, social, cultural), and personal factors (gender, wealth, social networks), how do migrants value migration options? How do they decide where to migrate, how to migrate, a possible return, or even not to migrate?

According to the World Migration Report 2018, all migration theories consider the migrants´ “self-agency” (I.e. migrants´ abilities to make and act upon independent choice or decisions) or a lack thereof in an attempt to understand migration patterns, processes and consequences.

The following consists of a summary of some the findings in recent research, migrant-centric, on migrant decision-making and experiences that should serve as guideline to understanding decisions, about risk and risk-taking migration journeys, including risk of death:

 

(MIS)INFORMATION

  • The main source of information for migrants is from close social connections. Families, friends and network sources (in social, not geographic terms) are more trusted than official sources.
  • Social media and telecommunications applications (such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube) have become an important source of information. These platforms are used to share information regarding routes, potential risks and rewards of certain transits, asylum practices, political and legislative situations, welfare benefits, destinations and contact information for potential smugglers and even travelling companions.

 

RISK AND REWARD

  • In the absence of accessible regular migration options migrants opt for irregular migration and/or high risk-journeys. On the off hand, people who are more restricted in their ability to migrate internationally (determined by nationality or otherwise), migrate to less desirable, but accessible countries. This is supported by current data on international migrants, for example, although United States is the preferred destination country in the world, it has been showed that a large share of international migration takes place between south-south regions and countries.
  • Migrants are aware of the risks posed by irregular migration journeys. Studies have shown that in the face of high-risk journeys migrants adopt several psychological strategies to lessen the pain.
  • International migration as a survival strategy. For other groups, such as those marginalized in origin countries, migration provides access to resources and safety. For some communities´ the potential reward even if for the next generation or kinship needs to be acknowledged. From migrants´ perspectives, irregular asylum migration can sometimes be the only option available, despite the risks involved, for some it is a safer option than what they are leaving behind. 

 

PRESSURE TO MIGRATE

  • Migration decisions have increased in social significance and a “culture” of migration has increasingly emerged. Findings show there is an increasing reliance of remittances as key components of household incomes in the origin countries. However, in some communities the “migration cultures” has extended: from a survival strategy at the lack of economic opportunities, to a social competition in which those who decide to stay behind or who cannot move, are stigmatized.

 

PREFERENCE FOR VISAS

  • When possible, migrants will choose to migrate through regular pathways on visas than irregularly. It is safer and travel options are far greater.
  • In the absence of accessible protection options people sought alternatives available to them, such as labour migration. In some cases, this kind of migration is considered as an alternative for people who could be refugees in a destination country, over asylum via irregular pathways. The preference to be law-abiding extends even to their migration status after arrival, since remaining within the law may have positive implications for return to the origin country, as well as for any future international migration plans that may eventuate.

These findings help us reach a better understanding of the extent to which a person consider taking high risks under the potential reward and opportunities of a better life (however defined). As stated by UN Secretary General António Guterres, on International Migrants Day, behind every migration number there is a person – a woman, a child, a man, with the same dreams as everyone: opportunity, dignity and a better life.