MANILA (ILO News) – Governments from 38 countries, trade unions, employers’ organizations, the private sector, civil society organizations including women’s and religious associations, academe and international organizations adopted a Manila Call to Action here to enhance opportunities and protect the rights of migrant women and their families all over the world.
Over 430 representatives officially endorsed the Manila Call to Action at the International Conference on Gender, Migration and Development held on 25-26 September 2008. The Call highlights the importance of seizing opportunities and upholding the rights of women migrant workers and their families:
“The Manila Call to Action is a broader platform, with practical and doable solutions”, said Linda Wirth, Director of the ILO Subregional Office for South-East Asia and the Pacific in Manila. “We see a lot of deskilling of migrant women and they represent a high proportion in the brain drain, especially in health and education sectors. More women are trafficked for sexual exploitation than men. Women are mostly in the invisible sector such as domestic work which can be highly exploitative and abusive. But we also know that men migrants face dehumanizing working and living conditions in certain sectors and are almost the same number in labour trafficking and bonded labour. They often have to take on new roles of family care as mothers migrate.”
Today, the “feminization” of migration has resulted in women making up nearly half of the global migrant population. The number of women migrants increased from 35.3 million in 1960 to 94.5 million in 2005. The majority of women migrants are migrating to work or study abroad. But they also continue to represent a significant proportion in migration for family formation and reunification, and as asylum seekers. Yet, gender-responsive solutions in protecting their rights are still not in place across countries. While they often face many challenges they also avail of new opportunities opened up to them by migration – new and better jobs and evolution of gender roles.
Though migration may be empowering for many women migrants, such empowerment cannot be deemed automatic.
“An important number of migrant women experience downward occupational mobility, deskilling and reorientation away from paid work and towards the domestic sphere. Too many women experience extreme exploitation and abuse in situations of trafficking, bondage and slavery”, says Gloria Moreno-Fontes Chammartin, ILO Migration Specialist.
“We also have to consider that the most recognized and most painful social cost of migration is separation of children from their parents, which can be even harder for mothers”, she adds.
The gender dimension of the social costs and benefits of migration; upholding the rights of women migrant workers; and seizing opportunities for enhanced gender equality and benefits of migration for women and their families were among the key issues discussed at the Conference and the basis for the recommendations included in the Manila Call to Action. The private sector and trade unions were active participants together with other concerned organizations. Besides actions recommended to governments, the important role that corporations can play, including through their supply chains, to uphold core labour standards and combat trafficking was highlighted. The key role of trade unions and migrant associations in organizing migrant workers to fight for their rights and decent and sustainable work was also underlined.
In a conference resolution, representatives call upon participating states at the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) which will be held in Manila on 27-30 October 2008 to incorporate the Call to Action 2008 as a substantive input on gender, migration and development to the Forum’s deliberations and outcomes; to ensure a gender and rights based perspective in migration and development policies, legislation and programs of countries of origin and destination; and to recommend that the gender dimensions of migration and multi stakeholder participation be an organic and integral part of all future deliberations of the GFMD on gender, migration and development.