Published on People Move

Gender and migration

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Last week we heard an excellent presentation of a report - Girls on the Move: Adolescent Girls & Migration in the Developing World - recently published by the Population Council. The topic of gender and migration has been around for a while, but substantive work on this topic that go beyond the anecdotal is yet hard to find. This report is an exception. The strikingly beautiful lay-out - more like a magazine than a policy report - stands in sharp contrast to the relatively tough stories and messages it contains. Some findings: Adolescent girls migrate looking for opportunities for employment and skill acquision; there appears to be more urban-urban than rural-urban migration; migration allows them greater voice within families; and yet these girls face difficulties and risks at every step of the migration process. Main recommendations, to quote:

"Prepare and equip girls before they migrate. Ensure education, life skills, knowledge of rights, IDs. Ensure a smooth landing for migrant girls. Reduce isolation through safe places to stay and links with trusted individuals. Build a safety net. Create time and space for migrant girls to meet with peers, mentors, and support networks. Make health and education services “migrant girl friendly”. Ensure service providers are sensitive to age, sex, and migration status. Test innovative ways to prepare migrant girls for success. Investigate ways to develop girls’ assets before things go wrong. Focus on the most isolated and vulnerable. Design girl-only approaches to reach domestic workers, child brides, & sexually exploited girls. Fill critical evidence gaps. Illuminate age- & sex-disaggregated internal migration rates using new and existing quantitative data. Develop qualitative and longitudinal studies to shed light on migrant girls’ experiences, as well as to evaluate and improve programs. Increase migrant girls’ visibility through policy and advocacy. Maximize the benefits of migration for adolescent girls by increasing their visibility in policy engagement and advocacy efforts."

One couldn't agree more.

At first sight, the development links of girls migrating may not be very different from those of boys migrating: via remittances, skill transfers, social impacts, transfer of values. And yet, especially on long-term social impacts and in particular the impacts on children left behind, migration of girls must be rather serious. Not much rigorous work has been done on these topics, in large part due to lack of data. Improving gender-differentiated migration data is a necessary first step in this respect.

In terms of policy recommendations, one could start by stating that migration of girls and women should not be banned or discouraged, and yet, there is a need to make the migration process more secure. Training of potential migrants, especially financial literacy and language training could significantly improve the development impacts of migration of girls and women.

The Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) has identified gender as one of the four cross-cutting themes. For key questions in this topic, check out the KNOMAD website.


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

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