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UN Women is urgently calling for migration policies, programmes and services to promote and protect migrant women’s and girls’ human rights at all stages of their journey.
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As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Ethiopia, the country’s already high unemployment rate increased and travel restrictions obstructed safe migration pathways for thousands of Ethiopians. In a desperate attempt to provide for their families, many turned to people smugglers who promised jobs. For Amen Kifle, her journey ended with three months of imprisonment in a foreign country before she was deported back home.
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Migration can be a life-changing experience, but migrant workers are especially vulnerable to human trafficking and gender-based violence. San May Khine, a social worker in Thailand who was once a migrant worker herself, is supporting other women migrant workers to move past experiences of violence and build a stable and bright future in a COVID-19 world.
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Women have been hit harder by the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs. This includes migrant domestic workers. Nan Zar Ni Myint is a domestic worker from Myanmar and a volunteer in her community based in Bangkok, Thailand. She has mobilized her network of domestic workers to support other domestic workers in Thailand, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Ensuring that women know their rights as migrant workers, including what should be in their employment contracts, is a crucial step in protecting them from abuse and exploitation – especially since some are not aware that their rights are being violated.
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Every year, about 172,000 Filipino women leave the country as migrant workers, seeking higher income to provide for their families. Research has shown that women migrant workers are more likely than men to send money home to families.
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Saleema Rahman is an advocate for the rights and safe migration of women domestic workers from India. Her journey as a women’s rights advocate began after she came back from Saudi Arabia, having overcome many hardships as a domestic worker herself.
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UN Women's Safe Migration Booklet, which features the always-upbeat Thai cartoon character Noohin (Little Hin), tells the migrants everything they need to know to make their journeys smooth and trouble-free.
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Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.
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Research shows that domestic workers in Cambodia need access and information about physical and mental health. A new technology supported by UN Women empowers them towards a healthier life.
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Edna Valdez, 58, a former migrant domestic worker, is now the President of Bannuar Ti La Union, an organization that works for migrant women’s rights in the La Union province of Philippines. Having experienced the hardships of migration first-hand, Ms. Valdez conducts trainings in her community about migrant workers’ rights, risks of illegal recruitment and trafficking, and access to services.
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Dawa Dolma Tamang migrated from rural Nepal to Abu Dhabi because she wanted to improve her livelihood and support her family. She ended up paying seven times more than what was required to the recruiting agency and was wrongfully denied work on medical grounds. With the help of Pourakhi, an organization working to protect migrant women’s rights, she was able to seek legal assistance and recover some of her money. Today, Tamang is working as a mason and will soon start taking the vocational and entrepreneurship skills training provided by a UN Women programme that’s advancing women’s economic empowerment in Nepal.
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With the support of UN Women and the Government of Australia, IOM X, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, have undertaken advocacy efforts to address the situation of domestic workers. They produced and launched Open Doors video series as part of the IOM X Happy Home Campaign in May 2016. The videos use dramatized stories based on the challenges faced by domestic workers and appeal to employers to form positive and respectful relationships with their domestic workers.
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An estimated 40 – 50 per cent of migrants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the two biggest cities in Viet Nam, are women, and they face distinct challenges. Low and unstable incomes and lack of social protection make them particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. But migrant women workers of Viet Nam refuse to live on the fringes any longer. More than 10,000 migrant workers have learnt how to access social welfare benefits, legal protection and health care. They are advocating for their rights and helping one another.
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As the Secretary-General’s report on migration is released, a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s many women migrant workers.
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In a statement for International Migrants Day on 18 December, UN Women emphasizes the importance of building the capacities of migrant women around the globe.
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More than 5,000 Syrian women and girls visit ‘Oases’ safe spaces in the Za’atari camp per month, and several hundred have independently earned incomes through UN Women’s work programme in Jordan.
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A regional migration programme ensures more than 5,000 families of migrant labourers in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have received training, resources and micro-credit loans to become self-reliant entrepreneurs.
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During a three-day visit to Viet Nam, UN Women’s Executive Director visited the Long Bien night market to spotlight the daily challenges faced by migrant women workers.
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Speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at an open event for migrants, Hanoi, 30 March 2014.