Challenges and Prospects of Feminism and Migration Studies in the Global South

Essay, 2019

7 Pages

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Inserting Feminism into Migration Studies in the Global South.

Tinuade Adekunbi Ojo Department of Political sciences, University of Pretoria.

Phd Candidate.


The study addresses the concept of feminism and its relevance to migration studies in the Global South. The debates surrounding feminism in migration studies just recently became a global context amongst scholars as most women have been ignored and reduced as a trailing partner in migration issues. Most importantly the sustainable development goals 5 relates to facilitating gender equality and women’s empowerment across the globe and in order to address this, all nations must address the issue of women challenges on migration issues. This study seeks to explore the current challenges and prospects of feminism on migration in the global South. The paper reviews the theoretical controversies surrounding gender migration especially in regard to movement from developing economies to developed economies.

Keywords: Feminism, Migration, Global South, Gender equality.


One of the main goals of the global institutions such as World Bank, United Nations, International Monetary fund (IMF) and global countries is to achieve and implement gender equality within the economy (Appave and Sinha, 2017, 5). This is the reason why the sustainable development goal 5 addressed the issue of gender inequality. Few literatures have addressed the impact of gender on global migration while feminist scholars also failed to acknowledge and direct the feminist lens on migration studies in time. This has had adverse impact on feminist migration especially in the global south where gendered movements is more rampant than the global north. There is a need to address the impact of skilled and unskilled women migrants in the migration studies. One of the ways in achieving the gender equality especially in the Global South is to address the crises of disregarding women migrants as trailing followers of migration movements.


The concept of feminism is current additions to migration studies (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 6). The context “feminism” represents a key feature which is significant and is currently used by strategists in migration studies to understand gender related issues, gender injustices as it focuses on transnational feminism across the globe (Das 2017; Bastia and Piper 2019). According to Das (2017, 1), there are three concepts in feminism that explain the gender movements between Global South and the Global North; (a) The first feminism is referred to as the ‘third world feminism’ or the ‘Narayan” which represents gender issues in the third world countries, (b) the second terminology is called the ‘Global feminism’ or ‘Morgan’ which represents gender issues across the globe but focusses more on white liberalism, (c) the third terminology is the ‘local feminism’ or ‘Basu’ which centers on gender issues within a specific region of context. Together, the three contexts creates a feminist awareness based on the educational, health and financial status of women across the globe (Das, 2017, 1).

Das (2017, 1), further differentiate the difference between the global north feminism (which relates the white middle class feminism movements) centered on “civil rights and contemporary queer theory” and the global south feminism which is the main focus of this paper as it addresses the issues surrounding decolonization, economic injustice, poverty. For her, international and inter-regional migration are key determinants of feminist theories. Although there is a continuous trail of feminism imperialism, all nations are called to ensure equality in the global south feminist theories in order to resist economic inequality, “racist”, “patriarchal societies and military/institutional power limiting gender liberty (Das, 2017, 2-3). Most importantly, feminism enables strategists to address the challenges posed by women migrants within the global south.

Till date, migration studies has been seen to be gender biased as it ignores the major socio-economic and cultural factors causing women migration (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 6). Most importantly, it ignores the “migration policies which determines the power dynamics and implications of the gender-segregated labour market” (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 19).

According to Appave and Sinha (2017, 7), it is a common knowledge that most migrants including women migrants seek better life opportunities which are often encountered with difficult challenges. Initially, women migrants were categorized as associate migrants or trailing wives who follows their partners or spouses to a new location (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 16). However, current results have attested to the fact that women are increasingly becoming individual migrants within their own rights and decision. The women relocate from one country to another to search for work and new opportunities (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 16). Migrant women are particularly at risk of poverty in their lives and professions as labor markets has increasingly shown gender gaps amongst the labour force (IOM 2017). This was supported by Das (2017, 3), who attest that most migrant women end up working in professions they are overqualified for due to the cultural, educational, racial and religious differences.

Migration in the Global South

Gender influences migration as it seeks to address who, where and how people migrate, it studies the kind of network gender migrants use, the opportunities and resources available for them in their various new locations and how it relates to their country of origin (IOM, 2017, 63). In a current study conducted by Donzelli (2013, 17), she stated that the global south is a diversified region with a series of socio-historical contexts determining the value, norms, culture and people of the region. The global South is categorized as part of the underdeveloped and developing regions within the global sphere (Wolvers, Tappe, Salverda, and Schwarz, 2015, 8). It consists of continents such as Asia, Africa, central and Latin America and other part of the developing world (Wolvers, et al. 2015, 8). Common factors on socio-economic crises, war, drought, terrorism, violence, environmental degradation, human and civil rights abuses, ethnic and regional conflicts not to mention a few are part of the challenges encountered in this area. This has led to massive movement from one country to another neighboring country and also migration form the struggling countries to the developed countries (Donzelli 2013; Wolvers et al. 2015).

Just like other literature the attention for gender migration within the Global South just recently gained international attention. Some literature has confirmed that migration movements in the Global South has not only matched but might have exceed the migration movements in the South North (Donzelli, 2013; Appave and Sinha, 2017; IOM, 2017; Bastia and Piper, 2019).

Factors causing Gender Migration

The relationship between gender and migration studies is also an important goal for sustainable development goal 5 (SDG5) and agenda 2030 proposed by the UN in 2013. SDG 5 intends to bridge the gender gap n inequality in all countries. Every state most often ignores gender centered migration policies. Instead legal restrictions are placed on women labor migration (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 20). Furthermore, structural factors such as discriminations based on “class”, “age”, “ethnicity” and “nationality” are regarded as primary challenges women migrants are often subjected to (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 20). Therefore, women migrants are only found in the lower class of the economy (such as domestic workers and factory workers) where wages are relatively low and they lack access to basic labor rights and social protection (Bastia and Piper, 2019, 20).

Appave and Sinha (2017, 7), on their part argued that “war”, “insecurities”, “poverty” are common factors influencing gender migration from one country to a neighboring country. Other factors acknowledged are (a) gender related discriminatory practices ( such as early marriage, domestic violence, female genital mutilation) which pushes women to migrate to where they will have liberties; (b) discrimination against women most especially in African communities in education, labor force, societal participation which undermine their ability to be active participants in the society (Appave and Sinha, 2017, 7). According to UNFPA (2018), there are five factors on the importance of relating gender to migration studies;

(a) Women are increasingly becoming lone immigrants and independent head of households of which recent results portrays women and girls to be more than half migrants in migration movements (UNFPA 2018). This means that women’s role cannot be ignored as major participants in any economy as they represent women economic independence and empowerment in migration studies.
(b) Secondly, women migrants have more tendency to be at risk of abuse and sexual exploitation, violence and human trafficking (UNFPA 2018). In fact, statistics states that 71 percent of women and girls account for human trafficking victims. Incidents caused by conflict and natural disasters leaves most women vulnerable while chaos, war, displacement, overcrowding in refugees’ camps and poorly lit toilets increases sexual and gender-based violence (UNFPA 2018). This act is seen in a current UNFPA report on Syrian refugee population which encouraged early child marriage as giving their girls child away in marriage is seen as a coping strategy against hardships (UNFPA 2018). Most often supporting systems or sufficient resources are not in place to address abuse issues and sexual exploitation thus leading to dreadful diseases and sometimes deaths amongst female migrants.
(c) Thirdly, women migrants are often discriminated because of their migrant status than their male counterpart. This usually occur more within the following spheres; workplace, housing, public transportation, accessing education and health services (UNFPA 2018).
(d) Another factor female migrant is subjected to is pregnancy during migration. Since women are subject of sexual exploitation. Most women end up pregnant during the migration movements. This most often leads to adverse effects on women’s care as gender displacements hinders access to good “reproductive health care”, “family planning”, “antenatal services” and “safe child birth care” which leads to death sometimes (UNFPA 2018). Being pregnant on the other hand, may have an added advantage for female migrants as most governments considers and provides basic amenities to women refugees who are victims of collapsed and in secured health systems.
(e) The last point is that women migrants due to insufficient basic health facilities tend to be carriers of dreadful diseases which leads to terminal injury and sometimes death. Diseases such as HIV infection, violence and trauma are results of women’s migrant trauma (UNFPA 2018).

Importance of inserting feminism into migration studies

Kenny and O’Donnell (2016, 1), stated the benefits of migration stakeholders in integrating feminism into migration studies. For them taking gender migration into consideration is a win-win strategy for both the developed and developing economies. They argued that; (a) women migrants have the potential if not more developmental impact on home countries than male migrants; (b) Gender equal host countries benefit more when they favor women migrants as they represent a good example of gender equality economy; (c) taking note of gender migration enables international bodies, governments and gender equal communities to implement appropriate policies which is beneficial for women migrants in gender unequal countries; (d) the policy may foster global gender equality and development which promotes an economical and well-structured immigration policies; ( e ) women migrants can facilitate better and wider social remittance impacts (Kenny and O’Donnell, 2016, 1-3).


Inserting feminism into migration studies is a global issue which should be taken into more consideration in the Global South. With current crises in all the global south economies, there is more influx of people especially female migrants from one neighboring country to another. Most women seek for greener pastures and where they will be given equal opportunity to live a self-sustained lifestyle. South Africa as one of the most sustained economy in the African continent continue to witness an influx of all types of migrants; both skilled and unskilled. Even so, consideration and policies should be implemented to accommodate women migrants as this can enhance and promote the country’s socio-economic development and facilitate gender equality and empowerment which is most needed in South Africa. The paper argues that inserting feminism into migration studies is the key to bridging inequality amongst women.


Appave, G. &, and N Sinha. 2017. “MIGRATION IN THE 2030 AGENDA.” Geneva.

Bastia, Tanja, and Nicola Piper. 2019. “Women Migrants in the Global Economy: A Global Overview (and Regional Perspectives).” Gender & Development 27 (1): 15–30.

Das, D. 2017. “What’s in a Term: Can Feminism Look beyond the Global North/Global South Geopolitical Paradigm?” Media and Culture 20 (6): 1–5.

Donzelli, Stefania. 2013. “Migration, the Global South, and Migrant Women Workers in the Field of Border Studies: Theoretical Approaches, Themes of Inquiry, and Suggestions for Future Work.”

IOM. 2017. “MIGRATION IN THE 2030 AGENDA.” Geneva.

Kenny, Charles, and Megan O’donnell. 2016. “CGD NOTES 12/20/16 (Http://Www.Cgdev.Org/Publication/Why-Increasing-Female-Immigration-Flows-Gender-Unequal-Countries-Could-Have-Significant) Why Increasing Female Migration from Gender-Unequal Countries Is a Win for Everyone.”

UNFPA. 2018. “Five Reasons Migration Is a Feminist Issue | UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund.” United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 2018.

Wolvers, A., Tappe, O., Salverda, T., &, and T. Schwarz. 2015. “Concepts of the Global South-Voices from around the World.” Germany.


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Challenges and Prospects of Feminism and Migration Studies in the Global South
University of Pretoria  (University of Pretoria)
Political Science
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
migration, feminism, gender equality, global south, sustainable development
Quote paper
Tinuade Adekunbi Ojo (Author), 2019, Challenges and Prospects of Feminism and Migration Studies in the Global South, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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