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To Action
LCWR Global Concerns Committee

Volume 15, Number 4 November 2006

Development and Migration: Empowerment of Women on the Move

by Sharon Altendorf, PBVM, International Presentation Association Sister of the Presentation
and Catherine Ferguson, SNJM, Coordinator of UNANIMA International

I have had a complete account of what you have done for your mother-in-law after your husbands death; you have left your
father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously. .. Ruth 2:11

Who are migrants today?

EXPERIENCE Social Analysis

In 2005, 191 million persons migrated.
n just the past month, we have
heard the stories of migrant
This means that about one in 30 of the
worlds people were on the move from
W hy are they on the move? Many
migrate to escape poverty
and lack of decent work. Although
women from all over the world. their region of origin to another region of
Mandesa from Nigeria attempted to globalization has benets, unskilled
enter Spain on a boat to the Canary and poorly educated men and women
Islands. Juana from Mexico works experience its negative effects as an in-
Migration has an increasingly feminine
as a nurse with elderly patients in crease in poverty and marginalization.
and youthful face. In some countries, the
Los Angeles. Asian maa trafcked Aspects of recent free trade agreements
percentage of women migrants is as high
Sunitha from Sri Lanka to Australia. have resulted in increased poverty
as 80 percent. In the United States more
An Albanian sells his sister to a man among those who can least afford it.
than half of all international migrants are
migrating to Italy. women and about one-third of migrants Some people migrate in the hope of
from developing countries are aged
Migration is a global phenomenon. nding treatment for disease and
between 12 and 24 years old.
It requires a global response. No set
of policies formulated to control and Women and children, in particular girls, Resolutions to Action is an occasional publica-
criminalize can hope to manage well are among the most vulnerable. They
tion of the Global Concerns Committee of the
the present ow of peoples between Leadership Conference of Women Religious
suffer more in situations of conict and (LCWR). Members of the committee are:
countries. In the United States we con- experience greater personal violence, Carol Descoteaux, CSC; Julie Driscoll, SCN;
tinue to experience the divisiveness discrimination, cultural restrictions, and Walter Maher, CCVI; Andrea Nenzel, CSJP;
and ineffectiveness of such policies. oppressive gender practices than do men.
Joy Peterson, PBVM; Susan Schorsten, HM;
and Marie Lucey, OSF, staff. Please address
On the other hand, feminine migration correspondence to:
Focusing on the feminine face of has the potential to provide great benet
international migration in its relation LCWR
to families and society in both sending 8808 Cameron Street
to development leads to policy from and receiving countries. Good immigra- Silver Spring, MD 20910
which all can benet: the migrants, tion policy should empower women in 301-588-4955
the countries of origin, and the coun- ways that promote these benets. www.lcwr.org fax: 301-587-4575
tries of destination. mlucey@lcwr.org
malnutrition. Others depart because AIDS, particularly if the women women and children: Conventions
disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, or have little education; on the Rights of Migrants; Convention
earthquakes leave them homeless and The loss of the services of well- to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimina-
vulnerable. All too often, war, political qualied women migrants hurts tion Against Women; Convention on
persecution, and discrimination caused the home country particularly in the Rights of the Child. (See http://
by political, cultural, and religious dif- the health and education sector. www.ohchr.org/english/law)
ferences force their movement. In some Participate in International Forums
cases, particularly for women suffering Reflection on Migration with intent to protect
torture or sexual violence at the hands the rights of migrants.
of those who should most protect them,
little choice is left but to ee their coun- I n the Book of Ruth, the story of Ruth
and Naomi provides a model story of
migration. We see the push-pull factors
Be actively cooperative in the
development of a Human Rights
try of origin or transit. Council to ensure the promotion
at play. We see the vulnerability of the of the human rights of all. (See:
An effective immigration policy must women but also the positive benets http://www.ohchr.org/english/
be one that is a rights-based approach when they are accorded their rights and bodies/hrcouncil/)
which is linked with trade and foreign treated humanely. In rereading the story
policy, which allows the development as one about migration, what responses Within our religious institutes:
of countries of origin as well as benet- are called forth in use with regard to 1. Educate members and colleagues
ing the country of destination. our treatment of women immigrants about the gender dimensions of
and refugees? migration which increase the risk
A rights-based gendered look at mi- to women, using, e.g. DVDs: Sis-
gration policy: A second illustrative story, Jesus ters and Daughters Betrayed; So Deep
Information on female migration is gen- encounter with the Syro-Phoenician a Violence; and Video: Of Hopscotch
erally inadequate but we know that the woman (Mt.15:21-28; Mk. 7:24-30) and Little Girls.
experience of women migrants often shows how Jesus himself is transformed 2. Promote Millennium Development
differs both positively and negatively through his contact with this foreign Goals, specically #1 Eradicate
from that of men: woman. How does this encounter chal- Poverty, #2 Education for Girls,
lenge us to change our behavior? #3 promote gender equality and
Positively, migration can be empower- empower women. (See www.mil-
ing and assist in development: Catholic Social Teaching calls us to lenniumcampaign.org.)
It can permit migrants to escape reect on the international treaty that 3. Within those countries where our
conict, personal violence, dis- has been developed to guide the deal- members live and minister, alert
crimination, cultural restrictions, ings of all countries with migrants and members to assist in monitoring
or oppressive gender roles to assert their families: The Convention to Protect compliance with international hu-
greater autonomy over their lives. the Rights of Migrants and their Families. man rights treaties.
It can offer economic opportunities It can be used to challenge our elected 4. Provide services to migrants and
and decision-making power. leaders as they debate over develop- their families, e.g. safe houses for
It can offer better education and ment of a comprehensive immigra- victims of trafcking.
access to health care for both them- tion law. Use of existing international 5. Hold government accountable
selves and their children. norms in our treatment of migrants for its promises of real social and
Through remittances it can provide could assist the US to become a just and economic development:
income for impoverished families moral force. See: http://www.ohchr. Demand that all governments, who
in the country of origin. org/english/law/cmw.htm. for over 35 years have pledged
By lling the gaps in labor force it 0.7% Ofcial Development Assis-
can benet countries of destination.
Action tance, fulll that commitment.
Moreover, these working women Demand that debt cancellation
pay taxes, contribute to social secu-
rity funds, and serve as leaders in
A dvocate for a US policy on immi-
gration that requires our govern-
ment to:
promised at the G8 meeting two
years ago be fullled without bur-
their families and communities. densome conditions for all impov-
Develop and implement just
erished countries.
policies that lessen the potential for
Negatively, women and girls face Develop and implement fair (not
abuse of individual migrants.
greater personal risks and loss of the free) trade agreements to give
Develop trade and investment
benets of development : priority to the needs of the poorest
policies which provide for robust
They often experience coercion, countries.
and sustainable economies in the
violence, theft, and fraud. 1. Ensure that our congregations who
migrants countries of origin.
There is great risk of unwanted 6. employ women migrants act justly
Ratify international conventions
pregnancy and sexually transmit- with regard to their salaries and
which protect and promote the
ted infections including HIV/ benets.
rights of all, particularly migrants,