How to gender mainstream migration policies

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.


10 initiatives against xenophobia

Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Jacinta Astles

To combat xenophobia, we must innovate and collaborate. IOM has implemented a number of successful initiatives to combat xenophobia in the region, particularly through Community Outreach and Communication Campaigns. Community outreach projects involve the creation of events and activities that strengthen bonds between migrants and host communities. Our communication campaigns have a wider reach but are also interactive; we collaborate with migrants to share their stories on our platforms. The list below outlines some of the initiatives carried out:

Working with Communities

IOM’s community outreach projects aim to engage migrants and nationals in shared experiences that promote acceptance and highlight the value of diversity.

1. Debating Championship

In Panama, the IOM Team created a Debating Championship to successfully raise awareness of xenophobia in 27 local schools.

Prior to the debates, students received workshops on key themes, including xenophobia, human trafficking, and gender equality. The teams then competed in a debating championship attended by community members as well as high level representatives from the Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Community, the Secretariat of Children, Adolescents and Family and the Faculty of Rights and Political Sciences of the Inter-American University of Panama.

2. Workshops and Events in Local Schools

In the Dominican Republic, 500 students attended a performance called “A heroine without borders”. The show follows the story of a Venezuelan girl and is aimed at generating empathy within the student population, which is made up of students from national and migrant backgrounds. It focuses on the importance of acceptance, peaceful coexistence and the harms caused by bullying.

3. The Global Migration Film Festival

The Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF), produced by IOM since 2016, has opened a space of reflection and discussion against xenophobia by sharing migrants’ stories through films and documentaries. In 2019, it brought more than 30 films to over 100 countries, including eight countries across Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

In Guatemala, for example, a screening of ‘The Power of Passport’, sparked a meaningful discussion of the barriers to migration faced by Indigenous peoples in the Mayan-Ixil region of western Guatemala. The event was attended by representatives of academia, civil society, media, the United Nations and human rights groups.

This event succeeded in raising awareness of how many migratory and consular services do not meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, such as due to the lack of information available in Indigenous languages and unequal access to immigration documentation. Creating spaces for visibility and raising awareness of the challenges faced by different groups can give rise to more equitable and open societies. 

(Photo taken at a 2019 Global Migration Film Festival Screening in the Bahamas)

4. Cross-Border Dialogues

Borders act at the frontline of migratory flows and are spaces in which government agencies, international organisations and civil society often operate collaboratively. Such a space therefore provides ample opportunities to share ideas, confront misconceptions and generate creative solutions. Our team is working at all the border points between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to make this happen. By establishing roundtables for cross-border dialogue between key stakeholders of both countries, this initiative aims to facilitate the identification of common interests and generate solutions that have benefits for all. In doing so, it serves as an avenue to dispel stereotypes and prejudices of migrants, thereby fostering mutual understandings.

The programme will officially be launched in the coming months. Whilst this project is still in its early stages, it demonstrates an example of how innovation can emerge in complex circumstances.

Acceptance through Communication

At national, regional and global levels, our communication campaigns have promoted dialogue and understanding. A central aspect is the empowerment of migrants by providing them with a platform to share their stories.

5. The UN Together Campaign

UN Together, launched in 2016, aims to counter the rise in xenophobia and discrimination by sharing events and stories of migrants and refugees. This platform also gave rise to the “I am a migrant” campaign.

 6. “I am a migrant” campaign

Through a collection of stories collated on an online library, “I am a migrant” provides first-hand insights into the triumphs and challenges of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys. It gives a human face to the 270 million international migrants living around the world and raise awareness about their experiences.

7. Plural+ Awards

Young people around the world have the opportunity to express their creativity through multimedia production as part of Plural+. This joint initiative by United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and IOM brings together more than 50 partner organizations globally. It invites young people, between 12 and 25 years old, to submit original and creative short films focusing on the themes of migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia.

8. #IamamigrantChallenge

We also challenged Youtubers from migrant backgrounds to share their stories, through a campaign called #IamaMigrant. To date, 21 Youtubers have been involved, generating almost 700,000 views and more than 5,000 comments collectively whilst reaching a broader and more diverse audience. By sharing their personal experiences of migration and their ties with two countries and cultures, the videos inspire discourses of acceptance and diversity.

9. Somos Lo Mismo Campaign

To bring together refugees, migrants, displaced persons and nationals through a message of solidarity and respect, the campaign Somos Lo Mismo was born in Panama in response to rising xenophobia in the country. The campaign, a joint project by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) and IOM, shares the stories of migrants and nationals. Its goal is to humanize through sharing how we are all made of experiences, feelings, learning, struggles and achievement.

10. The Podcast On The Move

Finally, to address more broadly the problems and opportunities of migrants, the IOM Regional Office in San Jose (Costa Rica) produces the Podcast On The Move every month. It brings together a mix of perspectives, involving both migrants and specialists who discuss economic, social and gender-based issues (as well as many more) and how they intersect in contexts of migration. In doing so, it aims to dispel common myths that often fuel xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes and promote an evidence-based understanding of migration phenomenon. 

Throughout the region and the world, individuals, communities and organizations are taking a stand against xenophobia. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it serves as a starting point to understanding existing best practices and as a springboard for future actions.

Countering xenophobia remains one of the most pressing issues of our time. Through a concerted effort that leverages the expertise of key stakeholders and meaningfully engages with communities, we can strengthen bonds and address the root causes of xenophobia.