Roundtable to Discuss the Rights of Women and Children from Migrants’ Families

In November 2014 IOM Tajikistan conducted a series of half-day roundtables in Dushanbe, Tojikobod and Kulob to discuss the rights of women and children from migrants’ families. The events were organized within the framework of the two year-long projects funded by the Government of Norway and the European Union and implemented together with UN Women and Save the Children International.

The event brought together a range of actors, including the central and local branches of the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, Migration Service, Committee on Women and Family Affairs, Child Rights’ Centres, employees of local governments and community members, international organizations, NGOs and mass media, who on a daily basis work with women and children left behind. In this way participants could learn about services provided by others in order to strengthen national referral mechanisms and facilitate access to social and legal services, in particular.

“Legal awareness allows people coping independently with everyday challenges and reduces their vulnerability to violence, exploitative labour practices, and various other forms of abuse,” said Tolib Sharipov, Deputy Head of the Migration Service. “There is a need to raise legal awareness among men, women and children. If only Tajik migrants knew the Russian laws and procedures they would be less likely to encounter difficulties in a host country, while women’s legal literacy would have prevented domestic violence against them.”

Several other participants emphasized the need for raising awareness on the importance of education among young people, especially girls. Unlike women, who did not gain degrees or professions, those who received a solid education are less vulnerable in case of divorce or abandonment for they will be able to earn their own living.

During discussions, participants agreed that given the considerable impact migration has on women and children left behind, there is a need for developing new strategies that can be used to effectively work with families of migrant workers. Many participants supported the idea of adopting good practices from other Central Asian countries, which are culturally similar to Tajikistan. Specifically, Kazakhstan’s legal initiative on mediation offers a full opportunity to solving family disputes and a similar initiative is currently under preparation for Tajikistan. Professional mediators could help spouses to reach a peaceful out-of-court agreement on child custody, alimony, division of assets and attain acceptable resolution of other matters. In addition, during the discussions the standards and ethics of organized recruitment of migrant workers, which could positively affect the families left behind, were also covered.

“Promotion of ethical labour recruitment practices will also have a direct and positive impact on the lives of women and children left behind,” said Malika Yarbabaeva, Head of IOM Tajikistan’s Labour Migration unit. “If transparent recruitment practices are put in place and regulated between migrants’ sending and receiving countries, it would eliminate the element of irregularity, which is the main obstacle for enforcing payment of alimony to support dependants left behind.”

Participants in the discussion also underlined the need to consider alternate forms of payments for child support or alimony. All agreed that there is a need to create Child Support and Alimony Special Needs Trusts, which would support financially the most vulnerable families of migrant workers left behind.

The workshops concluded with a number of practical recommendations, which included raising legal awareness among men, women and children; the promotion of female education; making a marriage contract obligatory; promotion of organized recruitment of migrant workers and family mediation services and institutes.