Migrant Women and Development: Challenges and Opportunities

On the occasion of the visit of H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt, to Geneva, the Director General of IOM,  Brunson McKinley, and the Permanent Mission of Egypt in Geneva held a roundtable in Geneva on the challenges and opportunities facing migrant women in today's mobile world and their increasing role in the development of both countries of origin and destination.

The event, which took place at IOM's headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva, brought together the First Lady of the Arab Republic of Egypt and President of Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement, IOM's Director General, representatives from UNCTAD, ILO, Permanent Missions based in Geneva, business leaders and non governmental organizations.

Participants underlined the fact that women play an increasingly important role in international migration both as family members and as economic migrants in their own right. They called upon the growing number of migrant women who have acquired high standards of education and skills to take a leading role in ongoing development efforts. They also noted that migration is increasingly a strategy whereby women achieve greater social and economic freedom.

They also reviewed the root causes behind the constant increase in numbers of women migrants and discussed the many pitfalls they have to face as they migrate. Moreover, the group took note of the growing disequilibrium of men and women in different regions of the world and the impact that this might have on migration.

H.E. Suzanne Mubarak emphasised the fact that hundreds of thousands of women worldwide are lured and forced into labour or sexual exploitation by unscrupulous traffickers.

She called for better mechanisms to protect migrant women and for the setting up of a global partnership between governments, the private sector and other stakeholders for the development, planning and implementation of improved mobility policies and practices.

Given the importance of migration for Egypt, Mrs. Mubarak is a strong advocate for a better managed international migration system and a leader in the worldwide campaign to eradicate trafficking in persons.

Participants also examined ways to empower women by developing mechanisms to better match global labour supply with demand to maximize their development impact through better use of remittances and transfers of skills.

Members of the IOM Director General's Business Advisory Board recently met in Cairo with the Egyptian First Lady to set forth key messages on migration that require urgent attention by the international community, including during the forthcoming High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD), which will take place on 14 and 15 September 2006 in the United Nations General Assembly.

"To facilitate supply and demand matching, there is a need for enhanced knowledge on labour market trends, labour force profiles and labour migration trends at the global level," said Brunson McKinley. "Beyond this, governments, relevant intergovernmental bodies, and the private sector need to collaborate to invest in preparing migrants, especially women to take a full and active part in today's global economy."