In the ever-evolving landscape of international security, the role of women has become increasingly prominent, particularly in the context of migration and crisis management. The migration crisis that began in 2015 has not only tested the resilience of nations but has also highlighted the intricate challenges and opportunities for women within this complex web of global affairs.

Forced displacement affects an estimated 79.5 million people globally, with women and girls accounting for approximately 48% of all refugees and asylum seekers, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These individuals are forced to flee their homes due to persecution, conflict, or violence, often enduring harrowing conditions and risking exploitation along the way. As a result, forced and illegal migration are at the heart of the current global discourse on international security. Women, in particular, often face unique vulnerabilities during these journeys, including the risk of exploitation, violence, and trafficking.

The ripple effects of migration are felt worldwide, transcending borders and impacting communities far beyond their place of origin. As waves of migrants seek refuge in neighboring countries and distant shores, the social, economic, and political dynamics of both sending and receiving nations are profoundly affected. Women, both as migrants and members of host communities, play a crucial role in shaping these dynamics, often bearing the brunt of the challenges brought about by mass migration. By socially and economically including migrant women through targeted integration programs and investments in education and skills development, host communities and societies at large can benefit. By recognizing the value of diversity and promoting gender equality, nations can build more resilient and prosperous societies.

Migration policies, mainly intended to regulate and manage the flow of migrants, often fail to adequately address the needs and rights of women. Restrictive immigration laws, inadequate support systems, and gender-blind policies can exacerbate the vulnerabilities faced by women, leaving them marginalized and exposed to further harm. It is imperative that policymakers take into account the gender-specific dimensions of migration and implement policies that prioritize the protection and empowerment of women. Despite the increasing recognition of gender-sensitive approaches to migration governance, many policies still fall short in adequately addressing the needs of women. According to UN Women, approximately one in five women in refugee camps experience sexual violence, highlighting the urgent need for policies that prioritize the protection and empowerment of women in migration contexts.

The prevalence of human trafficking, particularly affecting women and girls, further underscores the urgent need for gender-sensitive approaches to migration and crisis management. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), women and girls account for 71% of all detected trafficking victims, with many coerced into exploitative labor or forced into sexual slavery.

Furthermore, the demographic landscape of nations is undergoing a profound transformation as a result of migration trends. With women and children constituting a significant proportion of migrant populations, the demographics of host countries are shifting, presenting both challenges and opportunities for social cohesion and economic development. Harnessing the potential of migrant women through education, employment, and integration programs is essential for realizing the full benefits of diversity and multiculturalism.

Nowhere are the security implications of migration more pronounced than in the European Union, where the influx of migrants has sparked debates over border control, national sovereignty, and cultural identity. Additionally, the increased migration has strained resources and tested the capacity of member states to manage security concerns while upholding their commitments to human rights and humanitarian principles. Women, as key stakeholders in the migration process, must be actively involved in shaping policies that promote security, stability, and inclusivity within the EU. Ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making processes is essential for crafting effective and sustainable responses to the complex challenges posed by migration.

Amidst the challenges faced by migrant women, there emerges a beacon of hope in the form of female facilitators who play crucial roles in assisting migrants along their journeys. These facilitators, often operating within local communities or grassroots organizations, provide vital support and resources to women and families navigating the complexities of migration. For example, organizations like Women for Refugee Women in the UK offer tailored support services to migrant women, including legal assistance, counseling, and educational programs. In conflict zones such as Syria and Yemen, female humanitarian workers risk their lives to deliver aid and support to displaced populations, often facing unique challenges and dangers due to their gender. By amplifying the voices and experiences of female facilitators, we can gain valuable insights into the specific needs and vulnerabilities of migrant women and develop more effective strategies for addressing them. 

Addressing the multifaceted challenges of migration and crisis management requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that prioritizes the rights and needs of women. Investing in gender-sensitive policies and programs, strengthening legal frameworks to combat gender-based violence, and promoting women’s leadership and participation in decision-making processes are critical steps towards achieving more inclusive and resilient societies. By recognizing the intersecting vulnerabilities and strengths of women in the context of migration, we can create a more equitable and secure future for all.

Co-Written by Yuliia Makareinika and Mariia Utkina, Edited by Reed McIntire

Photo credit: Artem Kniaz, Unsplash