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Women and Migration: Promoting health all through the migration experience . Blandine Mollard – Project Officer, Gender Issues Coordination, IOM. Hacet t epe University Symposium-11 march 2010. Overview of women’s migration today Health challenges and opportunities posed by women’s migration

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Women and Migration: Promoting health all through the migration experience

Blandine Mollard – Project Officer, Gender Issues Coordination, IOM

Hacettepe University Symposium-11 march 2010

Overview of women’s migration today

Health challenges and opportunities posed by women’s migration

IOM responses and ideas for further action



At the Global level: close to equal numbers:

  • By 2010, 49% of all migrants are projected to be women
  • Nearly as many women as men have migrated over the past 50 years. In 1960, women made up for 47% of migrants
at the regional level high disparities
Regions of destination:

Africa(46.8%): steady increase in female migrants

Asia (44.6%):Femalemigration dominate in some countries.

Europe (52.3%):in 2010 female migrants will represent of all migrants

Northern and Latin America and the Caribean: 50%

Arab Region: male migrants far outnumber women

Turkey: in 2010, 52% of all migrants will be women

At the regional level: high disparities
how do women migrate
Voluntary migration:

Labour migrants (regular or irregular), long-term, seasonal/temporary

Secondary migrants within family regrouping

Forced migration:

Refugees or asylum seekers

Victims of trafficking

How do women migrate?

Migrate more and more independently

Forced movements hold gender specific risks for women


Reasonsto migrate

Although women are affected by same push and pull factors as men:

  • Poverty
  • Conflict
  • Labour market demand
  • Wage differentials
  • Networks and ties abroad
  • Gender strongly influences the conditions and outcomes of the migration process
gender as a determinant of migrants health status
Before migration:Gender influenceseducation opportunities, access to information, health knowledge and status, family responsibilities and experience of violence/discrimination.Gender as a determinant of migrants’ health status

Choice of migration channels– priority to smugglers, no information on asylum grounds,…

Vulnerability to human trafficking, betrayal in the family/intimate partner.

Levels of gender inequalities in CoO condition the migration experience.

gender as a determinant of migrants health status8
In transit:when travelling, especially in cases of forced/irregular migration: dual vulnerability as women and migrantsGender as a determinant of migrants’ health status

High risk of physical and sexual abuse from smugglers, other migrants, law enforcement and border management officials,…

Reduced acess to hygiene facilities. No access to contraceptives or reproductive health services. Increased risk of HIV/AIDS or STI.

In detention or in case of deportation, high risks of rape and increased vulnerability for pregnant women.

gender as a determinant of migrants health status9
In countries of destination:

Gender influences the type of legal status migrant women enjoy

and the opportunities to integrate to the labour markert

Gender as a determinant of migrants’ health status

Migrant women’s immigration status is often tied to their partner, father, or employer, creating dependance and reluctance to report domestic violence. Irregular migrants reluctant to acess health providers by fear of deportation.

Migrant women concentrated in occupations poorly regulated, high level of health risks and injuries and exposure to psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

gender as a determinant of migrants health status10
Gender influences the opportunities women will have to

integrate socially in host society

Gender as a determinant of migrants’ health status

Incountriesof destination:

Language proficiency and cultural barriers will impact the acess to health information and services.

Lack of migrant-friendly health services have disproportionate impact on women.

Lack of family planning services increase likelihood of unwanted pregnancies

gender as a determinant of migrants health status11
In cases where integration is difficult, migrant women can be exposed to domestic violence or traditional harmful practices with important effects on their health

Forced and early marriages

Honour crimes

Dowry-related violence

Female genital mutilations

Gender as a determinant of migrants’ health status

Incountriesof destination:

Those health consequences can strongly impede their integration

migration brings opportunities for health
Migration influencesgender relations by either perpetuating inequalities or challenging them.

Migrants’ remittances support health, food and education expenses, thus improving the well being of communities left-behind

New roles and behaviours for migrants and families left behind:

Income provider, greater participation in community decision-making;

Migration triggers new norms in migrants’ families: Higher age of marriage, lower fertility, greater educational expectation for girls, greater labour force participation. UNDP Human Development Report 2009

Change of status of women within the household can lead to better health for her and her children but can also trigger gender-based violence.

Migration brings opportunities for health
obstacles to migrant women s health
Obstacles to migrant women’s health
  • Most government health surveillance does not disaggregate by immigration status (lack of data)
  • Migrants not included in policies and programs
  • Lack of coordination across sectors (health, migration, labour, etc.)
  • Victims of trafficking often unidentified and not referred to appropriate health services
iom response
IOM response
  • Research and Policy guidance
  • Health promotion for migrants
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Reproductive health
    • Prevention of SGBV
  • Information campaigns to prevent trafficking
  • Training for health providers
  • Direct assistance to migrants victims of exploitation
key projects
Key projects


  • IOM study, “Stolen Smiles: Physical and mental health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe”
  • trafficked women aged between 15-45,
  • 92% of respondents forced into sex work
  • 76% physically assaulted by traffickers
  • 90% experienced sexual violence
  • lack of “predictability” of violence
  • Severe concurrent physical and mental health symptoms
  • 44% diagnosed for an STI.
  • 17% had at least one abortion during the time
  • 95% showed signs of depression
  • 56% showed symptoms qualifying for PTSD


Preventing human trafficking:

Through its programme, IOM estimates a third of victims of trafficking are mothers.

IOM launched a nationwide public information campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking’s impact on children and families. 

  An advertisement entitled “Have You Seen my Mother?” was broadcasted on TV channels and cinemas throughout Turkey.

IOM Turkey has facilitated and been managing the government owned 157 helpline for trafficked persons since May 2005. As of February 2010, 157 helpline coordinated the rescue of 165 trafficked persons in Turkey.

key projects17
Key projects

Research and guidance:

Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers

  • strengthen health system response
  • provides evidence-based tools for health providers
  • provides practical, non-clinical advice
  • recognize some of the associated health problems
  • identify safe and appropriate approaches to providing healthcare for trafficked persons.
key projects18
Key projects

Training health providers

Adressing Female Genital Mutilation

In Geneva, as part of a project to address Female Genital Mutilation among 4 migrant communities, IOM has been informing and sensitizing health professionals.

A symposium was held

-to inform them of the consequences of FGM on women’s and girls’ reproductive, sexual and mental health,

-to encourage the exchange of best practices in providing the best medical care, psychological support

-to build networks for the protection of girls.

key recommendations
Improve data collection

Advocate for the inclusion of migrant women in policies and programs

Remove barriers to SRH services for migrant women – regardless of immigration status

Improve health response for the most vulnerable migrants (women migrants who are victims of violence)

Develop initiatives to eradicate the culture of violence against women, as a root cause of trafficking and exploitation of women and girls.

Train health providers to respond to GBV among migrants

Promote regular migration for the benefit of all

Key recommendations
key messages
Women migrants may face multiple vulnerabilitiesand may suffer gender-based violence at all stages of migration

Migration is not a health risk but the conditionssurrounding the migration process can lead to increased vulnerability

Need to tackles problems in accessing comprehensive reproductive health services affect the health of migrant women

Key messages
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