Feel How Gender Shapes Migration on International Women’s Day

Switzerland – Empathy refers to the ability to take the perspective of another person, to experience their unique situation, staying away from judgment and recognising emotion in that other person. This can sometimes be a challenging activity to engage in, in the midst of rushing deadlines and reminders. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017, the Gender Coordination Unit of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has developed a new exhibition that takes participants through an interactive journey as they migrate through gendered dimensions in order to foster empathy and understanding of how gender matters for migrants of all genders. The interactive exhibition premieres at IOM’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, 8 March 2017. The materials will be available in the coming months to missions that are interested in organizing the same exhibition.

This exhibition will introduce participants to Sachini from Alawwa in Sri Lanka who faces difficulties in her household and challenging expectations from her extended family. Sachini is faced with the lucrative opportunity to migrate abroad in order to take up the profession of a domestic worker in Kuwait, yet she is well aware of the potential risks and challenges. If you were Sachini, would you move to Kuwait leaving your family behind?

Labour markets are gendered. This means that women tend to take up domestic and care work and men often work in the construction sector.

Women are more likely to migrate as an escape route or for other means of empowerment without sufficiently considering some of the potential traps. IOM works to reduce vulnerability, stigma and discrimination that can come with harmful gender stereotypes at every stage of the migration cycle, in order to enable greater autonomy, self-confidence and social status for all migrants.

Ali from Syria tells us about making his journey across the Mediterranean to Malta with the camaraderie of other migrants to help him deal with his physical disabilities. But once based in a migrant camp, Ali faces physical challenges that make him highly dependent on others for support and hinders him from fully contributing to his new community in a satisfying way. If you were Ali, would you put aside your pride and express your need for extra support?

“This interactive journey is important in order to truly feel and appreciate the range of gendered challenges related to migrants’ expectations and opportunities. We hope that it will open up space for multi-stakeholder actions and partnerships that address the gender, migration and development nexus. But most importantly, we hope it will provide an opportunity to individually reflect on the large impact that gender has on people’s experiences of migration,” says Theodora Suter, Head of IOM’s Gender Coordination Unit.

We invite you to personally reflect on some of these experiences by participating in this exhibition. The Gender Coordination Unit hopes that you will find the experience informative and stimulating.