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Taking Citizenship Rights with You: A new vision for human mobility (I)
Based on the discussions at the WIDE Annual Conference on 'Migration in the context of globalization: women's human rights at risk' held in Bucharest 3-5 June 2010.
Despite or perhaps because we are living in a time of crisis the WIDE annual conference on migration and gender held in Bucharest June 3 to 5 ended with a strong call to envisage alternatives (see the Conference blog) Christa Wichterich in her concluding remarks asked that we are guided by a vision of the world where global cosmopolitan citizenship can be enjoyed rather than restricted by the neo-liberal agenda of limited entitlements and citizenship determined by locality, nationality, race, class, caste and gender. She asked us to work for a world rid of patriarchal power relations, exclusion and segregation. Instead we should enjoy a world where people can chose to travel and live where they wish, with their rights and entitlements travelling with them. This as she pointed out, requires us to harmonize entitlements and rights at the local, national and global levels.
Such 'another world is possible' if we have the courage to build it, within the framework of peace and knowing that on this planet there is enough for everyone. We all should be able to sustain our livelihoods and enjoy buen vivir everywhere. In such a world there would be no need for people to migrate because there were forced to or trafficked. People freedom would have the freedom to decide do they stay or migrate as part of transnational citizenship and global social rights. Christa ended with a positive plea to the audience: 'Yes we can, if we are together create our own agenda of change'. Is this just an inspiring if fanciful dream?
Strategies to meet migrant rights
The jury is out as we weather today's escalating crises, but you could see during the WIDE conference of 200 women from East, West and South that there are strategies in place that are working towards such vision. One thing I learnt from the Conference is that we need to be inspired by vision while working a dual strategy. As many described their every day work as migrants or in solidarity with migrants, bringing about change means providing frontline service work and provision for migrant women and at the same time trying to intervene in policy and reframe policy.
The women's movement as represented by WIDE is engaged in supporting individual claims for rights while struggling for structural transformation through multiple level lobbying and advocacy work both inside and outside positions of power. What is clear is that we need to bring together migration and development policy and ensure livelihoods both in the countries of origin and in the country of destination. We need to recognize the economic and social inequalities which stimulate migration in the first place. People need work and income to support their family. Policy needs to support sustainable livelihoods and healthy living, rather than discriminatory policy that forces people to migrate in search of work, wherever that work may be.
At the heart of any strategy to meet migrant rights needs to be participation and representation of all voices in order to overcome exclusion and segregation. There needs to be integration but not assimilation of migrants through paths that are determined and lead by migrants themselves. In order to achieve such inclusion of migrants we need to change the mindset of people and reconstruct public images and discourse of migration, rights and citizenship. This requires countering the stereotype of unskilled, desperate victim to skilled empowered decision-maker in the market and community. We need to contest discourses which see migrants as commodities or as economic sources of remittances. This requires us resisting categorization of migrants from different classes and origins. We need to re-establish fundamental rights such as recognizing their diplomas, and their rights to organize for collective bargaining and rights to social security, acknowledge their contribution to the global economy and particularly their important and needed contribution of care work. We need to name and shame transnational corporations and trafficking agencies and indeed, the role of governments in the dirty chains of slavery and violation of rights.
And the bottom line is...
What emerged from the WIDE conference is that the bottom line is to decriminalize migration, legalize undocumented workers and recognize the crucial contribution of domestic workers and to expose the global trade and comic regime as the root causes of migration. Such work should be part and parcel of a development agenda for economic empowerment and for global women's rights founded on non racist non sexist non exploitative development.
Related article: The Missing Link: Migrant domestic workers in Europe, by Wendy Harcourt