Int’l Women’s Day 2022: Responding to Intersecting Global Crises: Women in Migration Mobilize for Transformative, Rights-based Policies

On International Women’s Day 2022, the Women in Migration Network (WIMN) salutes the power, creativity and organizing capacity of women around the world and calls for full and equal rights for women in all their diversity.

This year we celebrate hard won gains for women—even as health, economic, climate and war crises mean huge setbacks for women’s rights and well-being around the world. 

  • While workers, among them many women migrant workers, stepped up to maintain essential services during the pandemic, we are appalled that state efforts to “get back to normal” or even to “build back better” continue to ignore the need for labor rights, including the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, living wages and benefits. Quality public healthcare for all regardless of migration status, and the regularization of undocumented migrant workers—who were deemed “essential,” yet continue to be seen as “disposable”—are much needed. WIMN joins the global labor movement in reiterating our call for a New Social Contract that transforms unjust global power relations and systems, rather than merely “building back better.”
  • While some global north countries are taking steps to move on from COVID-19, millions in the global south, including many migrants and refugees, have yet to receive a single dose of the As a member of the Feminists for a People’s Vaccine, WIMN insists that all people have affordable access to the vaccine and that the WTO adopt a TRIPS waiver to make vaccine technology available in the global south. 
  • The upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women CSW-66 prioritizes the climate crisis at a time of increasing climate-related events and climate-displacement. While more significant mitigation efforts are urgently needed to address climate change, financing for adaptation and for loss and damage must increase and reflect the uneven responsibility and burden of climate change impacts. These policies must be developed with the inclusion of all impacted groups; be gender-responsive; address race, class, age, disability and other intersectional considerations; and protect the rights of those displaced by climate change. This means creating flexible, rights-based regular pathways for migration, including for those forced to migrate and who may not “fit” existing criteria for protection or regular pathways for migration. For migrant workers, the right to organize and collectively bargain is crucial as they seek access to decent work in the face of extreme climate impacts and to protect themselves in their workplaces against adverse occupational safety and climate-related health impacts.
  • In May, 2022 the United Nations General Assembly will host the first International Migration Review Forum (IMRF). WIMN urges coherence in migration governance. In particular, regular pathways centered around the human rights of migrants must be developed hand-in-hand with the regularization of undocumented migrants. Policies must break down the artificial separation between refugees/asylum-seekers on the one hand, and migrants on the other. All people on the move have rights and should have regular pathways, regardless of the incoherent categories created by migration systems. Moreover, in establishing regular pathways, states should not misdirect migrants into flawed and abusive temporary labor migration programs.
  • We are pained by Russia’s war on Ukraine and the tragic loss of lives and communities, noting the particular burdens placed on women in times of conflict. We affirm the EU and US’s decisions to grant Temporary Protection and to welcome those fleeing the Ukraine. At the same time, we are appalled by the racist behavior towards Black, Roma and South Asian refugees from Ukraine at some borders. We call for rights-based equal treatment of all refugees, not only in this conflict but around the world.

The Women in Migration Network grounds these concerns in a larger context—one of a disproportionate care burden on women; the dismantling of public health infrastructure over many years; the growing debt burden for low-income countries and the brain drain of skilled professionals from the global south. The continued inequality within and between nations, the unabated flow of wealth from poor to rich nations, and the ongoing influence of corporate trade, migration and labor agendas are simply unacceptable. Rights-based and just migration policy, climate action, and health and economic responses will require holistic, systemic, intersectional approaches. WIMN will continue to work toward these goals with allies around the world.

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Download a PDF of statement

International Women’s Day 2016 Statement

Speak out against xenophobia, racism and violence against women

The Women and Global Migration Working Group denounces violence against women in all its forms.  However, we also strongly condemn the ‘othering’ of perpetrators of gender-based violence, such as happened in the reporting of widespread sexual attacks and harassment of women in central Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve 2015.   In the immediate aftermath we witnessed a frighteningly xenophobic and racist reaction in the media and political commentary that led to physical attacks on migrant and refugee men in the name of ‘protecting women’.

We loudly reject racist tropes about black and Muslim men.  Stereotyping, racial and religious profiling of their sexual behaviour and/or misogyny, with absolutely no evidence to suggest that migrant men are more likely than other men to commit sexually aggressive acts, is both racist and xenophobic.   In Europe, the rush to protect women is being used to feed anti-immigrant and refugee sentiment and a backlash against newcomers desperately seeking refuge from war and oppression.  This has disturbing historical echoes in the use of violence against Black slaves in the US, or colonised peoples in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East in the name of “protecting our women”.

All women should be safe from sexual and gender based violence, regardless of the migratory status of the women or the perpetrators of such acts.  Women are assaulted by people who have access to them—whatever the race, religion, nationality or country of birth of victims or aggressors.   This is borne out by the experiences of migrant women in countries of origin, transit, return and destination.

Migrant and refugee women face particular risks – including as women, as migrants, as precarious workers, due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, religion, dependent migratory status and in many instances as black women, women of colour, indigenous women and women from the global South.  Profiling, prejudice and discrimination restricts their access to social, medical, psychological and legal assistance, compounding the risks they face at every stage of their journeys.

Apart from sexual violence that takes place in countries of origin (frequently one of the reasons for women migrating), this also manifests on the journeys they undertake. Examples from different continents include the constant reports of rape and sexual predation of women travelling through the Meso-American migration corridor in Central America – 80% of women in transit through Mexico suffer some kind of sexual abuse – and the routine sexual violence committed by the Magumaguma smuggler gangs on the Zimbabwe-South Africa border.

In destination countries, migrant women are at high risk of sexual and gender based violence and abuse through the precariousness of their migratory status and of the employment and economic restrictions imposed on them. Domestic workers in the Gulf States and in Europe, sex workers in European and African countries, textile and garment workers in some Mashreq and Asian countries and agriculture workers in Asia-Pacific and North America; women from sub‑Saharan countries and Asia exploited as au‑pairs in Europe; women in USA detention abused by wards; and Maquila workers on the US-Mexico border are among the myriad examples.  According to the ILO, women make up 98% of workers trafficked for sexual exploitation in the private economy and 40% of workers trafficked for labour exploitation.

Migrant women are not only at risk outside their own communities but also within, as they often lack the information, resources and networks in host countries to challenge or change the domestic situation they find themselves in.  Undocumented migrant women fear reporting domestic violence as they might face detention and deportation.  All migrant women face numerous barriers to accessing preventative, remedial and support services due to national laws that exclude or limit use by migrants as well as culturally and linguistically insensitive health, legal and social services.

The Working Group therefore asserts that the rise of violence against women cannot be ‘blamed’ on migration but rather on the rise in patriarchal and nationalistic expressions of culture and identity, stemming from economic and social systems and conditions, in nearly every country and society around the world.  

In addition, a complex intersection between racism, gender based violence and xenophobia is becoming a global patriarchal phenomenon and is playing out in both contemporary homogenous and pluralist societies where different cultures, customs and codes coexist and interact.

The Working Group believes that ‘outsourcing’ violence against women as a problem of others, outsiders from and within the global South, and setting one marginalised group against another is a disingenuous, anti-feminist, anti-migrant/refugee, and dangerous response.  Conversely, building solidarity between oppressed groups points to the answers, as this demands that we all challenge our own prejudices, the inequalities and discrimination in our own contexts, and the global systems of post-colonial power and privilege that create and foster racism, xenophobia and violence against women.

WIMN’s International Women’s Day Statement 2019

Download a PDF of the statement.

Overcoming Barriers, Seeking Solidarity

to Claim Rights for All

On International Women’s Day, the Women in Migration Network (WIMN) joins millions of women and girls around the world in the ongoing struggle for gender equality and women’s human rights.

Women’s mobility is a continuum within countries and across borders, based in some cases on choice, but increasingly driven by economic, political, gender-based, conflict-driven, or climate change factors. The lives of women and girls in migration and LGBTQI migrants continue to be marked by abuse and discrimination, gender-based violence, racism, precarious work conditions, social exclusion and migration policies that prioritize migration enforcement over human rights.

The rise of nationalism, xenophobia and right wing populism emerges from decades of austerity that has undermined social protections and quality public services for women and their families. This has intensified the care-burden of women everywhere and increased migration care chains to fill gaps. At the same time, populist figures pit women against each other, targeting migrants as the cause for job losses or reduced services. This obscures growing inequality within and between nations, shifting cost burdens onto working people and the impact of the financial crisis and austerity policies onto communities—with a disproportionate impact on women.

This situation opens the door for an agenda that is rolling back women’s human rights, attacking human rights defenders, challenging environmental protections, and deepening cuts to social protections and labor rights. In this adverse context, undocumented migrant women and girls face heightened risks, as accessing even basic services and accessing justice can mean possible arrest, detention and deportation.

Towards the critical need to address the current political climate of rising xenophobia and nationalism, we affirm the call to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, regardless of legal status or intersectional markers of “difference” and to ensure that the irregular entry, stay and work of migrants is not criminalized.

Yet, 2019 also marks the launch of the UN Global Compact for Migration, adopted by the UN General Assembly last December with the positive vote of 152 countries. It is the first-ever comprehensive UN agreement on international migration and global migration governance. The Compact is “migrant-centered” and has gender-responsiveness and human rights as guiding principles. The Compact can be a tool for policies at all levels that advance the human rights of women and migration.

Simultaneously, civil society launched the Marrakech Women’s Rights Manifesto calling on governments to put women and girls at the center of migration policy, ensuring their full, equal and meaningful participation at local, national, regional and global levels and guaranteeing their human rights. The Manifesto urges “firewalls” between immigration enforcement and social services including healthcare, housing, and education, as well as migrant women’s access to services and to justice regardless of migration status.

WIMN also welcomes the International Labour Conference process for a new Convention for Ending Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. A strong new legal instrument will serve migrant women workers, particularly domestic workers and farmworkers, who frequently face violence in the workplace.

As women around the world mobilize for rights on International Women’s Day, let us work across our different realities to enable all women to claim their rights, particularly migrant women.

We invite organizations and individuals to sign the Manifesto, through March 30, at http://womeninmigration.org/2018/11/endorse-the-marrakech-womens-rights-manifesto/

The Manifesto serves as an ongoing tool for advocacy with governments on the #RoadFromMarrakech

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The Women in Migration Network – WIMN — is made up of national, regional and global organizations from women’s, migrant, human rights, and development and faith communities representing all regions of the globe. The Network works to impact national and global migration and development policy as it affects women, and to hold States accountable for human rights commitments regarding women in migration.

www.womeninmigration.org