Migration can be empowering for women, providing new opportunities to improve their lives and strengthen ‘agency,’ or it can reinforce discriminatory gender norms, exposing them to new vulnerabilities and exacerbating their exclusion and isolation. For women who remain in the sending country, they may enjoy more autonomy as the head of their household, or they may be burdened with more duties and fewer resources. At the same time, gender segregation in labor markets and migration policies that provide differential opportunities for women and men can push women, particularly low-skilled women, into migration channels that are riskier, less regulated, and less financially rewarding. Because of these inequities, women may be more vulnerable to corruption, trafficking and violence. If, following Sen’s notion of development as freedom, we acknowledge that that freedom of movement has a value in its own right, above and beyond any welfare gains it may bring about, then we should be concerned with whether women enjoy the same freedom of movement that men do. To understand how migration is changing women’s lives—and ultimately to provide policy instruments for promoting women’s empowerment in the context of migration—it is important to elaborate the following:
- What are the gender-based push factors that affect migration flows? How does gender—notions of masculinity and femininity and norms shaped by these notions—interact with economic opportunity, human rights (and including labor rights), and social norms to affect the profile of who migrates, the reasons for doing so, and how that decision gets made?
- What policy interventions can help make the process of migration safer, especially for women?
- To what extent are women free to choose whether or not to migrate, and what policies would support non-coerced mobility?
- How does migration change the composition of the household and affect intra-household decision-making?
- How does this affect the allocation of resources within households and access to essential services like health and education? If women do gain when spouses migrate, do they retain these gains when spouses return?
- How does the role of women as care-givers change in the context of migration?
- Are women gaining skills and knowledge through migration in the same way as men?
- Are women moving from lower to higher productivity jobs?
- Who are remittances sent to and who benefits from the remittances?
- Do women have equal access to the financial services needed to send and receive remittances?
- Are remittance delivery mechanisms safe for women (cash versus mobile money)?
- Do women or men send more of their income in remittances?
- Do women invest remittances in children and family welfare more than men?
- What role do women play in social remittances (ideas, values, beliefs)?
- What are the gender implications of migration-induced demographic shifts? How is migration changing population-level characteristics, for example, sex composition and fertility preferences?