Female Migrants: Bridging the Gaps throughout the Life Cycle. Selected papers of the UNFPA-IOM Expert Group Meeting, New York, 2-3 May 2006.
Women make up nearly half of all migrants, an estimated 95 million of 191 million people living outside their countries of origin in 2005. Having said this, after many years of observing migration and collecting data there is remarkably little reliable information about women as migrants. This anomaly underlines their continuing invisibility to policymakers and development planners. The High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development by the General Assembly on 14-15 September 2006 offers the best opportunity in a generation to address the rights, needs, capabilities and contribution of women migrants. Equal numbers do not confer equality of treatment. Women have fewer opportunities than men for legal migration; many women become irregular migrants with concomitant lack of support and exposure to risk. Whether they migrate legally or not, alone or as members of a family unit, women are more vulnerable than men to violence and exploitation. Their needs for health care, including reproductive health care, and other services are less likely to be met. They have more limited opportunities than men for social integration and political participation. Migration can be beneficial, both for women and for the countries which send and receive them. Women migrants make a significant economic contribution through their labour, both to their countries of destination and, through remittances, to their countries of origin. In societies where women's power to move autonomously is limited, the act of migration is in itself empowering. It stimulates change in women migrants themselves, and in the societies which send and receive them. In the process women's migration can become a force for removing existing gender imbalances and inequities, and for changing underlying conditions so that new imbalances and inequities do not arise. Women's voluntary migration is a powerful force for positive change in countries both of origin and of destination. (excerpt)