Modern slavery and migrant workers is a major global issue today. Bringing a gender lens to modern slavery is part of She Matters’ mission. We’re committed to proposing specific solutions to the unique circumstances of women newcomers. Working towards their economic empowerment, we provide them with employment and psychosocial support. Some women have a long way to go before actually entering the labour market. They need to deal not only with professional issues but also the personal aspects. These include social, emotional, cultural issues with their highly sensitive nature. Unfortunately, such issues may be additionally aggravated by modern slavery experiences. Moreover, modern slavery has many different guises – which may remain unrevealed. There will be challenging times ahead. And that’s what also makes the women stronger. Their past makes them more resilient and able to face whatever life throws at them.
The good news is that progress is underway. The issue of modern slavery of migrant workers has been studied increasingly. As She Matters’ mission is about solutions, research findings are crucial to us. We identified key points that can be used to help refugee and migrant women.
Indeed, female newcomers are frequently mentioned in conjunction with modern slavery. According to the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for 28.7 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total. The Report also says that a significant share of victims of forced labour were exploited outside their country of residence. In turn, this points to the high degree of risk associated with migration, particularly for migrant women and children. In addition, the women and children are likely to be the most vulnerable.
As to sector-specific data, there has been a steady increase in the overall number of persons seeking employment in the domestic work sector. These were mainly migrant women. Worldwide, there are currently an estimated 67 million domestic workers, of whom some 11.5 million are migrant domestic workers and almost three-quarters are women.
In the migration context, women and girls also bear additional burden. They may be forced to marry foreign men for cultural reasons, or in order to secure another person’s entry into the country. According to the Report, an estimated 13 million women and girls were living in a forced marriage in 2016, representing 84 per cent of all victims. This brings us to another very fraught issue – addressing gender-related vulnerabilities. There’s an indication of profound differences between women and men in terms of how they are affected by modern slavery. In particular, women and girls are disproportionately victims of forced labour in the private economy and forced marriage. These include domestic work and in commercial sexual exploitation. According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, a total of 63,251 victims were detected in 106 countries and territories between 2012 and 2014. Based on the 17,752 victims detected in 85 countries in 2014 for which sex and age were reported. A clear majority here were females – adult women and girls. They comprised some 70 per cent of the total number of detected victims.
Regrettably, the ongoing conflicts also cause forced migration. In Syria, the ongoing conflict has led to women being traded as a form of currency, and the associated refugee crisis in neighbouring countries has driven high rates of child marriage among displaced communities.
All these realities need to be addressed. And that’s what She Matters’ mission is about. Our programming is underpinned by such questions as What can be done to support the women we work with? How to deal with what made them risk their lives to actually survive? Who should do what? How can we scale up the effect?
We translate the answers we get, research findings, and global goals into solutions. In this respect, The UN Women’s flagship report shows that it is impossible to achieve any SDGs without addressing gender inequality. Among other things, She Matters activities are centred around Target 8.7, SDG 5.2, SDG 5.3, SDG 10.7, and SDG 16.
Just recently, our founder & CEO Christina Moreno met with young newcomers to speak on the theme ‘Past, present and future’ and moderated the gender expert meeting, ‘We are not there yet: Women’s participation in conflict prevention.’ Issues we focus on are often conflict-related. We do believe that we are all on the same side. And a woman should not be, and seen as, a victim – she triggers peace.
‘She’s on a journey, it’s been rough, you can see it in her eyes but she’s getting there. Slowly but surely, she’s getting there. And the day She Matters is not needed will be the happiest day of my life.’ – Christina Moreno