Migration, Gender and Development: Views in comparison

Sara Farris' article - published in Development Vol. 53.1 'New Institutions for Development — seeks to answer these questions focusing on female migration flows to Europe from South and South-East Asia. On the occasion of the virtual launch of Development 53.1, you can download the article and read the commentary article below by Linda Oucho, looking at female migration experience from an African perspective. 

Farris, Sara, 'Interregional Migration: The challenge for gender and development', in Development, Vol. 53.1, 'New Institutions for Development'. Full article in PDF

ABSTRACT Sara R. Farris interrogates contemporary debates on migration and development by highlighting the role played by gender. She focuses on female migration to Europe with an historical and sociological perspective, showing how the number of women involved in international migrations has dramatically increased in the last 20 years. She analyzes the main patterns of female migration and the challenges and specificities associated with the increasing presence of women in the receiving countries. She then shows how this growth in female migration is associated with development by drawing examples from recent literature and especially from South Asian contexts.

Commentary by Linda Oucho 

I found Sara Farris' article a very interesting discussion on the link between feminization of migration and development policies. 

What I would like to do here is to look at some of the areas discussed by the author from an African perspective. In particular, I would like to focus on (1) the increase of female migrants; and (2) the emerging 'forerunners' of migration drawing examples from the experiences of African female migrants. On her discussion on the increase of female migrants, I found it interesting to realize how the change in some policies attracted more female migrants to some EU states. With the guest worker system, it mostly attracted men who engaged in the heavy industry and many women did not participate in this industry therefore, they did not migrate as a result. The few that did work in the heavy industry may have experienced a certain level of discrimination. I can understand why most women were attracted to the family reunification system in the 1970s as it was family oriented and many migrated as dependants. The interesting aspect is that at present, certain institutions in some EU states have been promoting the migration of women, especially from third world nations in Africa, a concept that the author discussed in terms of institutional migration analysis (Farris: 5). In the UK, for instance, the National Health Service (NHS) has been actively recruiting nurses from African states to help take over the care industry in the UK. Sara Farris had mentioned that 'national women' were now taking part in the labour market and other women were needed to take over their duties such as child care or caring for the elderly. I think it would be interesting to find out about the different types of policies that some EU countries have adopted since the 1970s for the purposes of attracting migrants and to assess whether they directly or indirectly attracted one gender and not the other (gendered policies). On the different patterns of migration, I still think that women continue to behave as dependants in the migration process. But I also believe they play a vital role in the decision-making process, whether it is straight forward where the wife/daughter openly explains her reasons for wanting to migrate or very subtle where she hints on a few suggestions here and there about the positive benefits of migration. I have noticed that a new generation of African women brought up in an urban environment are being encouraged to migrate abroad by their parents for better benefits for themselves as individuals (e.g. better education, employment) and their family (e.g. remittances). There does not seem to be any favouritism over boys and girls that existed very strongly in the 1970s but it may still exist in certain communities or households today. This emerging group of female 'forerunners' can be divided into types of women that migrate, a typology developed by Nana Oishi (2003) in her study of South Asian women migrating to the Middle East. These include 'the adventurous woman', 'the dutiful daughter', the good mother and good wifeí, 'the distressed woman' and 'the destitute woman' all of which describe the situation women find themselves in and were forced to or chose to migrate as a solution. Nevertheless, my point is that some women today have more freedom to choose whether or not to move depending on their socio-economic circumstances and are even encouraged more by their family to migrate as it means benefits for the family and the individual.

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