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.


Why does vulnerability to human trafficking increase in disaster situations?

Categoria: Human Trafficking
Autor: Guest Contributor


The increase of human trafficking in emergency contexts has repeatedly been demonstrated and detected worldwide. In Nepal, the 2015 earthquake, which affected two-thirds of the population, led to an increase in cases of trafficking in persons. These cases mainly resulted in the sexual exploitation of girls and women. Another case is that of Hindu men as victims of trafficking for labor exploitation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which afflicted the U.S. in 2005.

Among the main reasons for increased vulnerability to trafficking in emergency and disaster situations are:

  • Widespread lack of economic opportunities, so that affected populations tend to resort to risky survival strategies, such as believing in the false promises of traffickers.
  • If not managed properly, camps or temporary shelters can be contact points for traffickers and their potential victims.
  • Emergencies may exceed the capacity of States to protect their citizens, particularly in protracted emergencies, which increases exposure to the risks of human trafficking.
  • Due to the very nature of this crime and the complexity that typically prevails in an emergency context, many cases remain hidden for a long time to the great detriment of the victims.

In 2008, in Resolution 63/156 on trafficking of women and girls, the General Assembly of the United Nations referred for the first time to the need to address the problem of trafficking in the context of emergencies. This resolution encourages those dealing with disaster and emergency situations to address evidence of the increased vulnerability of women and girls to trafficking and exploitation.

(Watch video)


Actions to face trafficking in emergency contexts:
Due to the complex environment that accompanies emergency situations, the issue of human trafficking is not often incorporated as a variable of immediate or necessary attention by governmental and non-governmental interlocutors working in disaster prevention, response and recovery.
However, it is essential to protect the rights and dignity of all persons affected by a disaster (including migrants) before, during and after an emergency.
The fight against trafficking in persons in emergency situations must be understood as a measure of "immediate assistance to save lives". Trafficking must be considered as much of a priority as any other response to an emergency situation aimed at guaranteeing the comprehensive protection of vulnerable people, whether nationals or migrants. That is why anti-trafficking activities deserve a place in the comprehensive protection approach that is applied in emergency situations.
Some key actions to address crime in emergencies context are the following:
1. Conduct education and awareness campaigns about human trafficking for both the exposed or affected population and those working in disaster prevention, response and recovery.
2. Disseminate tools to detect possible human trafficking cases and know to whom to refer them.
3. Execute preventive and non-reactive actions. Anti-trafficking measures must be proactive and protective, so they must be applied immediately when an emergency situation is detected, even if the scope or impact of the activities of trafficking networks is unknown.
4. Give inclusive answers that recognize the diverse needs of the different groups of people that require assistance.
5. Ensure good coordination and management of camps and temporary accommodations by identifying the risk factors that can lead to human trafficking situations.
6. Ensure adequate access to food, water, proper lighting in areas regularly used by women and girls, segregation of sanitary facilities, mechanisms for confidentiality of complaints in the case of violations, additional surveillance and creation of safe spaces for women and girls, and the separation of the accommodations of orphans and unaccompanied children from the accommodations of adults.
Human trafficking is an even more ominous risk in disaster situations. Integrating this type of action in response to emergencies can prevent the exploitation of human beings.


Pertinent Sources:

Encarar la Trata y Explotación de Personas en Tiempos de Crisis

Climate Change – Human Trafficking Nexus

Página Web regional de la OIM sobre trata de personas.




About the author:

Francesca Tabellini works as a project specialist assistant with an emphasis on human trafficking in the Mesoamerica Program of the National Office of Costa Rica of the IOM. Previously, she has been a gender consultant and researcher for international institutions and civil society organizations and as a paralegal in a support center for Central American refugees, particularly indigenous and LGBTI populations. She is a political scientist and researcher in the area of International Relations and Human Security at the University of Bologna, Italy.