"Sabor Catracho 504” is a typical Honduran food restaurant famous for its baleadas and other traditional dishes located in Tapachula, Mexico. The walls are decorated with typical elements of the culture that make visitors feel close to Honduras. Behind this business is Mrs. Yadira, a migrant woman whose resilience and entrepreneurial spirit allowed her not only to become self-employed, but also to create a meeting place for the Honduran diaspora in Mexico or for anyone who wants to try its gastronomy.
Yadira's case stands out among the reality experienced by many migrant women in our region. Here, opportunities to integrate into the destination communities are often limited, and in many cases, access to them depends on a fundamental component: migratory regularization. Having regular status allows people to access health services, education and formal employment and, thus, to be an active part of their host community. However, according to various IOM studies, women have less access to regularization, and therefore, to such integration.
Regularization and integration of migrant women in the region is impeded by a variety of factors: administrative aspects such as limited access to certain categories of regularization, the sexual division of labor that continues to delimit the opportunities and sectors of formal employment they can access, the gender roles and stereotypes that permeate their opportunities for socialization and inclusion, and the social, economic and structural gaps that limit their participation outside the home in a foreign country.
According to the study "The Integration of Migrants: Experiences, Good Practices and Challenges" of all migrants working informally, the majority (60%) are women. In this regard, many women in our region go through their migratory experience from a place that is invisible to the official figures due to an irregular conditions, informal employment, or both.
A key element in addressing this issue is that many women migrate as dependents by marriage, a migratory status that, in most countries, does not include a work permit. This situation generates not only economic dependency, but also means that they often have to remain in dysfunctional relationships because they fear losing their immigration status, which places them in a position of greater vulnerability.
On the other hand, the lack of access to employment reduces the civic and citizen participation of these women, since the workplace is a space where migrants can interact with nationals, learn their slang and customs. Finally, there are structural elements such as gender stereotypes that affect labor integration of migrant women in host countries. They are often engaged in domestic and care work (generally unpaid) and some sectors of this population in the region may be employed in sex work, which causes them to suffer greater discrimination.
So, what can we do to ensure greater integration of migrant women?
Although it is a complex issue, there are several actions that can be implemented. A fundamental step is the creation of public policies with a gender perspective in transit and destination countries. These policies could facilitate migrant women's access to independent regularization and to formal jobs in various sectors of the economy (which should not only be those traditionally occupied by women) and to essential services such as health and education.
The creation of such policies must include programs and activities that include host communities in order to make them more effective and promote coexistence. Activities that allow cohesion between migrants and nationals, such as markets and fairs, not only generate income, but also allow exchange between both cultures. All types of social and community activities of this nature should also consider the existing gender dynamics so that they are accessible to women.
IOM is committed to supporting States in these processes, as well as in providing evidence to help support actions that contribute not only to orderly and safe migration, but also to allow people to integrate into their countries of destination, just as Mrs. Yadira did. In this regard, the IOM will soon launch the study "The Integration of Migrants: Experiences, Good Practices and Challenges" carried out in Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic, which served as the basis for this article.