Statement by IOM at 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women General Discussion (Item3)

Published Date: 
Friday, April 5, 2019
Ashraf El Nour, Director IOM UN Office to the UN

Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) appreciates the opportunity to address the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The session, focusing on social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, comes at a critical time when over 65 million people are forcibly displaced, of which 40 million are uprooted within the borders of their own countries. It is especially important to note that almost half of all international migrants are women and girls. On this basis, I would like to build a case for migrant and gender-sensitive services and policies.

Migrant-specific vulnerabilities often intersect with a range of other vulnerabilities, such as those linked to physical ability, age, ethnicity or gender. In this sense, it is not enough to simply address beneficiary needs in terms of the vulnerabilities migrants as a general group may face. Social protections, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure must take into account the specific vulnerabilities women and girls face, and, to that end, the specific vulnerabilities women and girls who migrate face. This perspective can and should apply to other identity markers as well, such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality, and physical ability.

Women and girls face specific vulnerabilities on the move. They often have less information, less education, and fewer options for regular migration than their male counterparts, which puts them at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking. But, even in regular migration, women and girls are disproportionately concentrated in unskilled, undervalued, and low-paid sectors. Such migration outcomes pose barriers to accessing services, particularly healthcare. This is especially troubling given that migrant women and girls are often more vulnerable to health risks in migration, due in large part to their risk of sexual and gender-based violence. These and other gender-specific vulnerabilities faced by women and girls on the move must be explicitly addressed in services and policies at all levels.

When women and girls have increased economic, political, and social expectations that do not meet realities in their home countries, migration can become a channel for empowerment. It can also be an escape route, for young women and girls to break away
Statement 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women from sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage, and other restraints on their freedom and violations of their rights.

But, migration is most likely to empower women and girls when they can make informed choices, and when they have access to gender-sensitive legal protection, social services, and social networks in countries of origin and destination. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the positive contributions of migrants and that migration is a human reality of greater relevance to development. Every day, IOM works side by side with migrants to prevent and combat all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, and to address the social, cultural, and structural issues that fuel violence and discrimination. Let me close by reiterating IOM’s deep commitment to continue working with Member States and all relevant actors to ensure that the rights of women and girls on the move are respected and fulfilled.