[Cross-linked from Future Challenges Organization Article: The Changing Pattern of Migration in West Africa]
When the word Migration (Human Migration) is mentioned in some parts of West African settlements; there’s mixed reaction where people turn to jubilate while others cry in sorrow. Some families in West Africa have seen and tasted the positive side of it meanwhile, others haven’t.
Migration in Africa is dynamic and extremely complex. (Hope you do agree with me on this.) This is always reflected in the feminization of migration, transformation of labor flows into commercial migration and brain drain from the region. Completing this picture are trafficking in human beings, the changing map of refugee flows, and the increasing role of regional economic organizations in fostering free flows of labor. What follows is an overview of some of the most important trends.
It is very difficult, almost impossible or even blasphemous to predict the future with absolute certainty. This is especially true with modern
society where change is a daily occurrence. In the context of West Africa’s future, however, there seems to be an exception to this rule. This is because the patterns are so regular that many West Africans are sure beyond doubt that there will be hunger tomorrow. This hunger is only a step away from chaos. And chaos is a regular pattern in West Africa.
The traditional pattern of migration within and from Africa — male-dominated, long-term, and long-distance — is increasingly becoming feminized. Anecdotal evidence reveals a striking increase in migration by women, who had traditionally remained at home while men moved around in search of paid work. A significant share of these women is made up of migrants who move independently to fulfill their own economic needs; they are not simply joining a husband or other family members.
According to Political Activist & Kenyan Environmentalist: Wangari Maathai;
Women are responsible for their children; they cannot sit back, waste time and see them starve. African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.
The increase in independent female migration is not confined by national borders: professional women from Nigeria and Ghana now engage in international migration, often leaving their spouses at home to care for the children. Female nurses and doctors have been recruited from Nigeria to work in Saudi Arabia, while their counterparts in Ghana are taking advantage of the better pay packages in the UK and United States to accumulate enough savings to survive harsh economic conditions at home.
The relatively new phenomenon of female migration constitutes an important change in gender roles for Africa, creating new challenges for public policy. For instance, before the outbreak of civil war, an ongoing economic crisis in Cote d’Ivoire did not prevent female migration from Burkina Faso.
This was possible because women gradually clustered in the informal commercial sector, which is less affected by economic crises than the wage sector, where most male migrants work. This emergence of migrant females as breadwinners puts pressure on traditional gender roles within the African family.
With the recent civil unrest in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA); some African women who traveled to seek greener pastures will be caught in these disturbances. What’s the future like for the uneducated African woman who sees migration as the best tool for curbing poverty in her family? Are there any organizations ready to help, empower and support these women?
Photo Credit: Scrapetv.com
- Libya’s Protests and Africa (sahelblog.wordpress.com)
- Senegal: World Social Forum 2011: One Week of Activism in Dakar (globalvoicesonline.org)