“We need to center migrant women’s voices, experiences and expertise in the struggle for social justice, sustainable livelihoods and human rights. The time is ripe to call to action ways to dismantle the oppressive structures that prevent migrant women from accessing their rights”, according to programme coordinator of WIDE+ Migration and Gender working group, Nurhidayah Hassan, who wrote the following reflection, with concrete recommendations for EU policymakers.
On International Migrants Day, our feminist calls to action for all policymakers at the EU and its Member States include:
- Implementing mechanisms to have meaningful and significant participation of migrant women at all stages of policymaking processes and decision-making efforts at the local, national and EU levels, that goes beyond token participation;
- Earmarking specific budgets or funding strands for migrant women-led associations. The EU can set up funds that enable smaller NGOs to apply, through adjusting the administrative burden and co-financing principle. Since EU-level funds are based on calls for proposals, the complex bureaucratic procedures of these funds prevent smaller organisations (which many migrant women associations are) from applying.
- Start adopting a rights-based approach and the use of intersectional lens to all migration and asylum policies and programmes at the level of EU and its Member States – there needs to be an end to illegal pushbacks, violence at the borders, detention centres, and during migratory routes. All migrants should enjoy the full spectrum of their rights and no one should be left behind.
WIDE+’s Migration and Gender Working Group joined a feminist march on 25 November 2021 to demand for an end to all forms of violence against migrant women
Migrant women make up over half of migrant populations in Europe, yet a gender lens is hardly ever employed in local and EU policies or programs for migration. Migrant women face specific and significant barriers to actively participate in social, democratic, and political life. The issues migrant women face are diverse and many – trafficking; gender-based violence; lack of basic rights at borders; barriers to access healthcare services; deskilling in the labour market; exploitation in precarious employment; and much more.
These issues are products of racism, sexism, and xenophobia, which are systems of oppression that are closely linked to how physical and symbolic (“us versus them”) borders have been manufactured to protect modern nation-states at all costs. As such, the narratives around migration have largely been problematic, and since 2015, the term “crisis” has been used to describe the phenomenon. The real crisis around this is the failure of the EU and its Member States to provide humane treatment for arriving migrants. We now know, through the generally positive reception of Ukrainians in EU countries, that this failure boils down to the question of political will.
To push back against these problematic narratives, migrant women have been self-organising to voice out their political struggles. Migrant women’s actions have been especially visible during the pandemic, not just as frontline workers, but also as providers of help and safe spaces for migrant women and their communities when governments failed to deliver basic provisions. Beyond the pandemic, migrant women-led associations have often demonstrated strong leadership in their fight for social justice. Given that migrant women are consistent advocates of gender equality and human rights, they need to be active stakeholders in grantmaking and policymaking spaces. Despite the work that migrant women activists do, their actions remain ignored or not taken seriously.
Other than being invisible in policymaking, migrant women organisations have severe difficulty accessing funding to sustain and grow the important work they do for migrant women and their communities. Complex application processes prevent migrant women groups from fundraising as it takes precious time away from the much-needed work on the ground. When and where funding is available, it is rarely, almost never, earmarked for core funding, which in turn sorely limits the vital work of migrant women in supporting their communities.
Human rights and equality are fundamental EU values, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights ensures that everyone can live free from discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, or race. Yet, the migration policies of the EU and its Member States are based on the securitisation of “Fortress Europe”, instead of using a rights-based approach when dealing with migrants at the borders. Layering this with the rise in hate speech, increased gender-based violence during the pandemic, the climate crisis, and Putin’s war against Ukraine (which has consequences on the cost of living in Europe), the need to develop migration policies with an intersectional feminist lens is now more relevant than ever.
Feminism is not just an ideology or a vision for how our world should look like; it is an analytical framework and a strategy that uncovers how people interact within systems and offer ideas and strategies to confront and eradicate oppressive systems and structures. At WIDE+, our feminism is intersectional, meaning that we work to shed light on the multidimensionality of lived experiences in which multiple axes of oppression intersect. With intersectionality, we recognise and analyse power dynamics and systems of inequality and work toward countering them. It becomes a powerful tool for analysis, transformation, and emancipation. As such, we are deeply committed to building a transnational migrant feminist movement to promote migrant women’s rights and to collectively resist overarching oppressive structures. We need to center migrant women’s voices, experiences, and expertise in the struggle for social justice, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights. The time is ripe to call to action ways to dismantle the oppressive structures that prevent migrant women from accessing their rights.