Would you like to be safer, richer, healthier and happier, with more choices for yourself and your family? Millions of migrant women leave their homes in search of this dream every year.

Some are driven by poverty, or natural disasters, or a lack of opportunities and a need for work. Others are fleeing persecution or conflicts. They leave their families and homes to take terrible risks.

Women migrants face exploitation and abuse, but they live in the hope that they will be able to improve their lives and those of their children. This is the female face of migration.

For a long time migration was considered a purely male issue. But there is growing attention to the “feminisation of migration”: the increasing number of women striking out alone without their families, husbands and children in some parts of the world.

Women who do this face different risks and challenges to male migrants, and yet also enjoy different opportunities.

As more and more women migrate independently, the impact on families and communities grows. Increasingly, women are becoming the sole breadwinners.

Why women migrate:

  • To join other family members or to marry abroad
  • To seek protection from persecution for themselves and their family members
  • To flee poverty, economic and political instability and lack of opportunities
  • Unemployment
  • For a better education
  • To escape cultural traditions that hinder their development
  • A desire for more freedom and respect
  • A dream of a better life

Social and economic conditions are often among the reasons why women migrate. Another important factor for migration is that women workers are in greater demand in more and more countries in sectors such as domestic work and healthcare. The jobs offer money and opportunities that may not exist in their own countries. It enables them to support families back home.

According to the IOM, remittances sent home by women and men are up from $132 billion in 2000 to an estimated $414 billion in 2009. The money sent home feeds, clothes and educates children, provides healthcare and reduces poverty.

The difficulties faced by women who migrate:

  • Exploitation
  • Physical and mental abuse
  • Lack of protection in the labour market
  • Lack of security
  • Economic difficulties
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Cultural alienation
  • Loneliness and alienation

By undertaking the migration journey, women are much more vulnerable than men to abuses, smuggling and trafficking. Women who go abroad to work risk abuse from both employment agencies and employers. They often lack legal and health protection and can fall victim to discrimination.

Their children born abroad are sometimes denied citizenship and an identity.

Women are trafficked either against their will or as a result of a deception and are forced into prostitution or slavery.