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Migrant women as sources of change, decisions and progress

United Nations, Dec 18 2012 (IPS) - Commemorating International Migration Day, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) organised a workshop which centralised the “effects of migration on the education and empowerment of women.”  The workshop was organised in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

On Dec. 18, the international community comes together annually to recognise the contribution made by millions of migrants to the development and well-being of many countries in the world, but also to demand an end to the abuse and violence against migrants and their families and promote respect to their basic human rights.

Undocumented migrants remain a vulnerable population group and in particular the migrant women are highly susceptible to violations of their fundamental human rights. “Women now comprise approximately more than fifty percent of the world’s migrant population,” Yvonne Lodico, head of the UNITAR said Tuesday.

Their undocumented status exposes them to exploitation and precarious living and labour circumstances, often being employed in low-skilled jobs ranging from the construction sector to domestic services or the entertainment industry, in particular prostitution. “Gender discrimination increases migrant women’s likelihood to suffer from their human rights violation,”  Ludico asserted.

They continue to experience numerous barriers to empowerment due to lack of social assistance and access to health care, which makes them subject to exploitation and sexual violence inflicted upon them by their scrupulous employers and clients.

“These working migrant women prove to be indispensable to countries but they receive little protection and low wages, despite their contribution to economic and social development.”

Lodico claimed it is due to lack of knowledge of their rights which heightens the vulnerability of these women and girls, leaving them unfamiliar with national and international organisations and institutions which recognise their problems and could support them.

However, Amy Muedin, IOM programme specialist, Office of the Permanent Observer to the United Nations, highlighted a remarkable change in migration patterns. “Women are increasingly migrating independently, which results in other phenomena like the changing roles within a household, whether being in the country of origin or destination.”

The head of UNITAR stresses the importance of education of women as a tool to achieve empowerment. “By educating them on their rights and giving them access to protection, we can empower them to make a change.”

“The gender dimension is a crosscutting and multidimensional factor, as is the migration phenomenon itself,” said Muedin, pointing out that profound study on the dimension of gender provides a fundamental contribution to the international debate.  “That is what makes the study on both migrant men and women indispensable– not only at the household level but also by looking at women as sources of change, decisions and progress.”

Meanwhile, an estimated 214 million people worldwide, including 27 million aged 15-24, constituting about one-eighth of the global migrant stock, according to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

“Migrants are human persons and should not be lost in the semantics of concepts and nomenclatures nor be treated as mere objects of economic growth. We have to make migration a choice rather than a necessity,” stressed Emeka Obiezu, the director of Augustinian Non-Governmental Organization,  at a seminar Tuesday on ‘Migration and Sustainable Development- Youth and Adolescents on the Move’. The meeting was jointly organised by U.N. Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

He added: “Youth and migrants occupy a special place both in migration discourse especially as it concerns the violation of their human rights and they are also a major force in post-2015 development agenda.”

“The number of young people on the move has increased, so the children vulnerability too,” reminded Eva Sandis, Chair of NGO Committee on Migration. “Our campaign “Protecting Children on the Move” is about child right and child protection. We work at the community level and the best interest of children is our priority.”

The youth migration can be explained by differences between countries in terms of job and educational opportunities, security, climate, but also by a new demographic reality and the technological changes.

For Jeronimo Cortina, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Houston, international migration, focused on the youth, is the solution of the current economic and social issues: “Migrations have social, fiscal and productivity implications (both at origin and destination). Potential solutions are the increase of productivity or of the age of eligibility for benefits, the use of other tax revenues to fund benefits, but the other solution is already here.”

He added: “Migration has the potential to equalize the opportunity structure creating a triple-win situation for migrants, countries of origin and destination.”

“The relationship between migration and development is mutually reinforcing, it is not a one-way street,” he said. “In the context of new emerging challenges (demographic, environmental, under-and-unemployment) migration could be have the potential to enhancing sustainable development if the right social and economic policies are implemented.”

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