“Together we can ensure that…no woman or girl on the move is left behind”

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Lakshmi Puri at a side event on “Human Rights Protection in the context of large movements of migrants and refugees”

Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2016

[Check against delivery]

Distinguished representatives of government and civil society, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I begin by thanking the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Platform for International Cooperation for Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) for organizing today’s side-event on “Protecting human rights in the context of large movements of migrants and refugees.”  I would also like to thank the co-sponsors of the event, the Governments of El Salvador and Argentina.  This is an extremely important event that reinforces our urgent call for ensuring that all our efforts in the context of large population movements should focus on protecting the human rights of all migrants, including women and girls.

UN Women as the 2016 Chair of the Global Migration Group (GMG) has sought to elevate the focus on women in the migration debate and to ensure that both men and women are impacted positively by the work of the GMG.

Together with OHCHR, UN Women co-chairs the Working Group on Migration, Human Rights and Gender of the Global Migration Group (GMG).  Under the leadership of OHCHR, the Working Group has developed a draft set of “Principles and practical guidance on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations and within large movements”.

I thank OHCHR for leading in the development of the principles and practical guidance, which is intended to serve as a critical resource in developing, implementing and monitoring measures to protect the rights of migrant women and men in large movements.

Despite the fact that women make up nearly half of the 244 million migrants worldwide, policymakers have continued to neglect a gender perspective in migration governance. The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, and the subsequent intergovernmental process to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, provides a unique opportunity to address the distinct needs of migrant women and girls, and ensure that migration is an empowering process for all women and girls on the move.  

This requires that we recognize women migrants make important contributions to economic development in both their countries of origin and destination.  In fact, women are expected to remit over $300 billion, half of the global remittances in 2016.  Evidence shows that women migrant workers tend to send home a higher proportion of their wages on a more regular basis, and that their remittances are more likely to be spent on health, education, family and community development.

Yet, it is also critical to recognize the distinct vulnerabilities and needs of women and girls so as to develop meaningful policies and programmes that effectively promote and protect their human rights and address their specific needs.  

Migrant women and girls are exposed to high risks of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV). This includes early and forced marriage, transactional sex/ survival sex, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and physical assault in the country of origin, in transit and the country of destination.

Accessible and confidential GBV prevention and response services including legal assistance need to be provided by trained personnel in a survivor-centred manner.  Lack of legal status in countries of transit and destination means that victims of abuse and exploitation face greater challenges prosecuting their abusers.  They need access to legal services irrespective of their migration status.  

Women require access to comprehensive healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health services and information as well as psychosocial support. Pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls, and women and girls with disabilities need particular services.

Irregular migration status tends to increase vulnerability to labour market abuses, characterized by forced labour, low wages, excessively long hours and insufficient rest.  Women in domestic and care work are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of unequal power relations, limited access to information, limited autonomous mobility and because of the invisible nature of their workplace.

The global response to large movements of migrants must be gender-responsive, and ensure that the rights of women migrants are upheld, and that their contributions to society are recognized and valued, and that dedicated financial and human resources are available to support all the efforts on their behalf.

Before closing, I would like to invite you all to participate in UN Women’s E-Discussion on ‘Mainstreaming Gender in Migration and Development’ hosted between now and the end of September on UN Women’s online platform EmpowerWomen.org. The e-discussion focuses on the importance of including a gender perspective in migration policies.  I encourage you to join the discussion and share your expertise, experiences and ideas on what it means to promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls on the move.

To conclude, I would like to stress that each and every one of us has to play a role in ensuring that the human rights of all migrants are protected, promoted and fully realized.  Planet 50-50 by 2030 should be the inspiration, goal and reality of all migrant women and girls. It is imperative that we recognize that their specific needs, priorities and protection risks require targeted efforts. Together we can ensure that, in line with the aspiration of the 2030 Agenda, also in the context of large movements—no one, and certainly no woman or girl on the move—is left behind.

Thank you.