International migration conference seeks to forge global partnership to protect migrant women’s rights

The Philippine Government, through the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), is leading the 2008 International Conference on Gender, Migration and Development: Seizing Opportunities, Upholding Rights which aims to forge and strengthen a global and multi-sectoral partnership and network on approaches and opportunities for migrant women.

Supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College (WAGI-MC) and Lola Grande Foundation for Women and Children, Inc., the conference which will be held on September 25-26, 2008 at Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City likewise seeks to bring together representatives from government, civil society organizations (CSOs), academe and private sector to explore and propose actions and partnerships to address the issues on gender, migration and development.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that there are about 191 million migrants worldwide in 2005, up from 176 million in 2000. In the Philippines, a total of 1.52 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) were deployed all over the world during the period of April to September 2006 of which 50.4 percent or 764,000 are women. This number indicates a significant increase of 15.8 percent from the 660,000 estimated female OFWs in 2005.

“There is a notable trend in the growing number of women migrants. At present, they make up nearly half of the global migrant population. This is often referred to as the “feminization of migration.” Women migrate for various reasons including for reunification with their families and for marriage,” says NCRFW Chair Myrna T. Yao, who is also the Deputy Minister of the international event.

Chair Yao explains that migration offers the opportunity for women to find “a better job, or just a job” where their work and income contributes to the well-being of themselves, their families and to the development of both sending and receiving countries. For some women, migration leads to career enhancement. For others, it can lead to de-skilling as they accept lower skilled jobs for higher pay.

“The critical role women play in development deserves more recognition. Applying a gender lens to migration patterns can contribute to identifying ways to enhance the positive aspects of migration and to mitigate the negative effects, as well as promote greater gender equality in both sending and receiving countries. Since women are vulnerable to human rights abuses, countries must implement safeguards to protect and promote the rights of women migrants,” adds Chair Yao.

Through the conference, governments and other international participants are expected to share their perspectives and experiences, and build partnerships and networks for the cause of women migrants.

“Aside from discussing issues on protection of women migrant workers’ rights, the international conference will seize opportunities of migration for women by highlighting good practices on reintegration, use of remittances, and financial literacy training,” she said.