By: Jacinta Astles

At each stage of a person's migration process, whether at the destination, transit, origin or return, they are likely to be treated differently according to their gender identity. Understanding migration from a gender perspective offers States tools to guarantee and protect the rights of migrants of all gender identities.

Integrating a gender mainstreaming approach to policies associated with migration issues is essential. These policies are also linked to the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including, for example:

Goal 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

Goal 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

In Central America, North America and the Caribbean important contributions have been made regarding how gender mainstreaming can be incorporated into tools linked to migration policies:

a. Regional Conference on Migration (CRM): This regional consultation forum has a gender focus as a transversal axis and has positioned the reality of migrant women in its agenda for analysis and debate since 2017. Member Countries of this conference have a technical tool that provides clear and viable recommendations for countries of origin, transit, destination and return. This document, Guidelines for the Assistance and Protection of Women in the Context of Migration, recognizes the need to examine how gender influences migratory trajectories to address inequalities. It also explains how policies can adopt a range of perspectives, such as human rights, intergenerational and intersectional approaches, among others.

b. Forum of Presidents of Legislative Powers in Central America and the Caribbean Basin (FOPREL): the feminization of migration is gaining momentum in the region and is reflected, for example, in the recent approval by the ‘Regional Legal Framework on matters of Migration, with a Human Rights Approach’, which includes a special reference to migrant women, adolescents and girls. The document, Regional Legal Framework on Migration Issues with a Focus on Human Rights, was published in August 2019 and provides guidelines to promote safe, orderly and regular migration for populations that are particularly vulnerable in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. Under this legal Regional Framework, governments can address the needs of migrant women, girls and adolescents through:

  • Legal Protections and Rights

This includes equal rights as those of nationals, including the right to social services and education.

  • Public Services

Specialized services are essential to ensure the wellbeing of migrant populations, such as medical care, legal assistance and psychological services. Training for frontline agencies also helps to prevent re-victimization and ensure adequate support for victims of violence.

  • Comprehensive Migration Management

This involves the development and implementation of standards, plans, programs, strategies and management instruments that are tailored to the needs of different groups, including indigenous women, migrants with disabilities, victims of gender-based violence, among others. A coordinated approach between government agencies and authorities can ensure the effective prevention, investigation and eradication of specific forms of discrimination and violence that target women, girls and adolescents.

  • Research and Data Collection

Ensuring the collection of data disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and other characteristics, as well as statistics on gender and migration that include differentiated risks and impacts allows for more effective policy responses. Research should also examine the positive impacts of migration on development, including the contribution of women to the economies of their countries of origin and destination.

  • Communication Campaigns

Clear and reliable information on human rights and services for migrant women is crucial in providing space for them to exercise their rights.

“Mujer Migrante”, an initiative implemented in Mexico sheds light on how digital platforms can be used disseminate reliable information to migrant women. This programme involved the creation of a multimedia platform with key information on themes such as: procedures, services, support programmes, health, risks when migrating, tips for adapting to a new country, workers’ testimonies and migrant care manuals, among many other resources. It also included a mobile application through which migrant women can submit questions and be directed to the right institution. This highlights how the utility of digital technologies, in combination with a gender mainstreaming approach, can be harnessed to increase the availability of information for migrant populations.

The assumption that all migrants have the same experience regardless of their gender has rendered women, girls and other individuals with diverse gender identities invisible from a policy perspective. It is important to recognize that migrant women may face a double discrimination, as a result of their gender and their migration status. This may be further exacerbated by other forms of discrimination, such as based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, among others. Migration policies need to recognize women’s agency and seek to alter existing power structures, thereby reducing inequalities and making a wider variety of opportunities available for women. By understanding their realities and tailoring responses accordingly, States can promote, protect and guarantee the rights of all migrants in the region.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities