Gender and Migration: ICMPD work in Bangladesh

Gender and Migration: ICMPD work in Bangladesh

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December 2020

By Marija Ra​us and Golda Myra Roma, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)​

Female migration - and the effect of migration on women - is one of the themes shaping ICMPD's approach to the development of strong and sound migration management systems. This particular topic is one of the priorities targeted by the EU funded Silk Routes Facility implemented by ICMPD in five Silk Routes Countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Specifically, the Silk Routes Facility supports two projects in Bangladesh where the main focus is on female migration. Additionally, the Migrant Resource Centres in Bangladesh also empower female migrants and returnees by providing advice, support and information to facilitate decision-making while addressing the gender-based risks that are faced by female migrants.

Promoting Safe Migration For The Women Of Bangladesh

Ensuring that Bangladeshi women can benefit from safe migration is vitally important since female migrants are exposed to a broader and different set of risks than men. 

To address this crucial issue, with the support of the ICMPD Silk Routes Facility, CARE Austria works with CARE Bangladesh and the WARBE Development Foundation to advocate for gender responsive migration policies; reduce women's risks and vulnerabilities related to migration and enhance policy makers' understanding of the challenges of the migration process from a woman's perspective.

A vital component here is promoting gender responsive migration policies which address women's particular needs and vulnerabilities, while providing services tailored to these. With women more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation than men, more focus is placed on these issues. Providing pre-departure services and life skills development to women is important in this regard. In doing so, the project contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 8, in ensuring that women's vulnerability and exploitation is reduced throughout the migration cycle.

While this project provides women with the capacity to help themselves through increased information, knowledge and skills it is also focused on transforming social structures. This means transforming attitudes and norms that discriminate women, as well as promoting equality through institutions.

Social Reintegration of The Returnee​ Female Migrant Workers In Bangladesh

The stigma around female migration, as well as the scarcity of resources for reintegration services, often makes return an unpleasant experience for women, and reintegration very difficult. Return and reintegration, however, are a part of the migration cycle. Women need support in this phase, equally as much as they do during the pre-departure and post-arrival stages. With 200 to 300 women returning from the Middle East every month, for example, this is a priority area.

To address this issue, the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA) and the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) are working on the “Social Reintegration Of The Returnee Female Migrant Workers In Bangladesh" project.

This project has a specific focus on improving the reintegration of female migrant workers while supporting already settled returning workers to Bangladesh in rebuilding their livelihoods. In doing so, it seeks to address the lack of services for returnee female migrant workers, which hinders their successful reintegration at the local level.

Returning female migrant workers come back with skills and experience, which they can utilize on the domestic employment market, and these need to be harnessed. Currently, over 40% of returnees wish to re-migrate. With no government institution assigned to dealing with reintegration of returnee migrant workers, the project fills in the gaps. This includes empowering female migrant workers returning from abroad - and their families - to better handle the reintegration process back into their societies. The initiative also forms alliances of social actors and stakeholders who advocate for the interests of - and address the stigma facing - returning female migrant workers. The project also advocates for legislative and policy proposals that enhance the legal protection of - and improved conditions for - returnee female migrant workers.

In concrete terms, qualified personnel provide psycho-social counselling, as well as training in skills development and financial management for female returnees are being provided. To this end, female migrant workers and their families returning from abroad are empowered to better handle the reintegration process into the societies to which they have returned.

Migrant Resource Cent​res

In addition to these two projects, ICMPD works with the Bangladeshi government in operationalising the Migrants Resource Centres (MRCs) in Dhaka and Cumilla. While the MRCs cater to everyone, and not just women, they conduct specific awareness raising campaigns, community education, and responses and referrals of issues and concerns of and for women migrants. These activities are critical for women because, based on the needs assessment conducted by ICMPD in Bangladesh, potential women migrants are the easiest to be influenced by middlemen because of their limited access to other sources of timely, accurate and comprehensive information on migration. 

The most common concerns of women migrants or potential women migrants raised to the MRCs are requirements to acquire skills training;  access government services (and particularly the loan programme for returnees due to COVID-19); and the visa options and requirements for countries such as Canada and Australia.

Equally, female leadership to help disseminate information on safe migration is important. For this purpose, MRCs are building the capacities of women representatives in local councils to enable them to cascade migration-related information further to remote areas. The focus is in ensuring that women go through regular processes, have the required qualifications in order to work, and comply with all the pre-departure requirements. There is also a focus on providing materials on migration, gender and health. This includes coping with and addressing gender-based violence in overseas employment, as well as insurance provisions for female migrants.

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