WOMEN AND MIGRATION IN THE AFRICAN CONTEXT
Religious and Migration in the 21st Century
In February 2016, a collaboration of four UN NGOs of religious congregations (in consultative status with ECOSOC), namely Augustinians International, Congregations of St. Joseph, Passionists International and Congregation of the Mission, launched the series, Religious and Migration in the 21st Century. The aim of the series is to provide a space for us men and women religious to share our experiences in the common responsibility towards today's many migrants and refugees and to listen to those with a deeper knowledge of the situation so that we may harness our efforts for more effective and efficient responses. While the main goal of the series is to strengthen our response at the grassroots, through networks and collaborations and to enhance our advocacy at the global policy processes especially within the UN system.
The inaugural event was held in Rome on February 22-25, 2016, with a focus on the raging refugee crisis, especially in Europe. It brought together over eighty participants from men and women religious, UN and other international agencies, the government of Italy, various Pontifical Councils dealing with migration and related issues, civil society, refugees and survivors of trafficking in person and other participants from Europe and the Middle East.
This second event, with a focus on “Women and Migration in the African Context,” is organized in continuation of the aim and goal of the series. More so, it responds to the request of many participants at the Rome event that we pay a significant attention to the link between Africa and Europe in the global migration dynamics. Women’s perspective is chosen because of the peculiar experiences women, especially those from African region bring to the migration and refugees discourse.
Women participation in global migration has been an age long but invisible phenomenon. Women make up a significant percentage, about half (49%) of global migration. The perspectives―their socio-economic contributions and unique experiences were not taken into account until lately. In the past, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, migration was seen as a man thing and women were simply seen merely as wives and dependants of migrants. All this has changed in recent times with an increase in women autonomous migration for reasons including being the main economic providers or breadwinners for their families. Their peculiar migratory patterns and behaviors are quite different from men’s. So different also are their migratory opportunities, risks, and challenges. Women are many times more susceptible to human rights abuses, exploitation, discrimination and specific health risks. “The female face of migration is one of hope, strength, determination and self-reliance. But is can also be one of violence, discrimination, and exploitation” (Caritas International, 2007).
This is particularly so of the African woman migrant. An important segment of African women migrants is the adolescent and young women. Adolescent and young women migrate in all of the categories of migration—labor movements, family reunification and formation, and forced migration. Adolescent and young women migrants often face triple forms of discrimination—as women, young people, and migrants. They are the most victims of those trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor. They also represent a significant part of the families left behind in countries of origin by migrating parents and spouses.
Different groups of religious, including those within and without African regions, are responding in different ways already, individually or as coalitions. However, the overwhelming nature of the situation can and remains so daunting for even old timers in this experience. Thus this second event in the series is essentially an effort toward a coordination that collaborates and brings together these existing responses. It seeks to explore the realities of African migrant women, to understand their peculiarities, the changing configurations of their emerging reality and identify where their needs are most so as to enhance our response and support to them.
Description of the Conference
This conference promises the opportunity for sharing experiences and recommendations on how to better respond to the current African migration issues, especially as it concerns women. Areas specific to African worth considering in the conference include, environmentally induced migrants/refugees, IDPs, religious and cultural practices and their impact on the vulnerable groups such women and children (e.g. albino in Tanzania), the refugees’ competition with the locals for scarce resources, herdsmen/community clashes, trafficking and re-trafficking in persons; irregular migration and the dangerous route, statelessness, forced repatriation and inadequate reintegration policies and programs, raging xenophobic and islamophobic attitudes, challenges and place of public health in mobility discourse and the current European Union and African Union Valletta Action Plan and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The limitation of prevalent concepts within existing international instruments and their failure to capture and provide for some of these typical African migratory realities may call for re-conceptualization to include emerging populations and their realities.
The event will benefit from the firsthand perspective of victims and beneficiaries of the migration dynamics. Such an open space encounter enables the various levels of governments and intergovernmental agencies to share with the people various programs and policies on migration and development, such as the many bilateral, multilateral processes between African countries and those between Africans and other continents. This is an opportunity for a large number of people to know about the numerous good programs and initiatives of international agencies, such as International Organization on Migration (IOM), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR); church organizations, Caritas International, Jesuit Refugee Services, national and regional church migration/refugee programs and how to access them. Conversely, it also informs these governmental and international agencies about the activities and efforts of religious groups in response to the migration challenges today. Importantly, it synthesizes these perspectives for an informed participation of non-state actors like those of the religious congregations of men and women, in local policy making and global discussions and (peer) reviews. It is the starting point for the much needed partnership for achieving SDGs goals and targets for migrants.
The event’s program and preparations will be structured around a mix of plenary presentations, breakout/working sessions, and special session. This educational, informative and experience sharing session is hoped to introduce the participants, religious men and women to the various regional and international networks and their contribution to the international migration discourse.
There will be a conversation with different levels of national government and regional intergovernmental organizations, private sector, local and international intergovernmental agencies to initiate steps for a concrete collaboration towards achieving rights-based migration and human development. Amongst the panelists of this session, we will aim to include representatives of local and regional authority/government, private sector and agencies in order to initiate and advance the multi-stakeholder character of governance and SDG frameworks.
- knowledge of where the African religious are on migration and refugee issues in terms of understanding, awareness and response
- members are up-to-date on current migration issues in all fronts especially from African and women perspectives
- improved grassroots responses through a network for collaboration of efforts
- encouragement of local and regional policy advocacy
- insights and perspective from the conference brought to global processes through briefs, side events and advocacy in New York and Geneva
About the Sponsors: Augustinians International, Congregations of St Joseph, Franciscans International, Passionists International, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and VIVAT International
These six organizations, in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), are part of the leading civil society organizations dealing with issues of migration in over 100 countries and are in a position to champion such a series to further advocate with other key stakeholders at global, regional and national levels for a better and effective migration governance for the dignity of migrants and national development. These organizations are international religious groups (nuns, priests, brothers, and lay associates) of the Roman Catholic Church. We promote human, cultural and social development through education, training, development assistance, empowerment, healthcare, protection of human rights and awareness building. We support international efforts and dialogue to streamline migration governance mechanism and coherence at country, regional and global level including protecting the rights of migrants, changing the perception of migration from a “problem to be solved in to a process that can become beneficial”. In the many of the countries we work we advocate for rights of migrants, legislature against human trafficking and support to victims of immigration.
Audience: Religious men and women in Africa and Europe; other interested persons and groups working on different aspects of migration-related issues.
Venue: Instituto Dimesse of Padua, P. O. Box, 24395-00502, Lang’ata via Karen Road - Nairobi
Date: June 6-8, 2017