New Project for Save Migration of Women in Nepal started

In cooperation with the NGO Pourakhi AWO International started a new project with the goal to reduce unsafe and forced labour migration of vulnerable women in Nepal.
On 7th of Dec 2012 the project agreement has been signed between Social Welfare Council (SWC) and AWO International. One moth later the project was launched in coordination with Kathmandu District Development Committee (DDC). All seven VDC secretaries took part in coordination meetings, got familiar with the project objectives, activities and working approaches and committed to support the project interventions. Recently first awareness measures focussing on teachers and youth in various schools of Kathmandu district have started.

The number of Nepali women going abroad for work is steadily rising. The reasons for the increasing labour migration of women are manifold: Lack of income and employment opportunities at home (with an annual power purchasing GDP of 1,199 US $ and an HDI-rank of 157 Nepal is still the poorest country of South Asia), the wish to become more independent financially and to support the family (especially their children’s education) and in some cases also simply the desire to escape from domestic violence and gender discrimination.

Due to the limited financial resources of women in Nepal (land holdings and property are usually in the name of the husband) many women get indebted to moneylenders in order to finance their migration. Contracting agencies often act as “brokers for a better future” and sell dreams that often don’t come true and end up in human trafficking in worst case. High interest rates and lack of knowledge of the risks force women often to accept any kind of work offered to them. Women migrants from Nepal often work in barely controlled professional areas (care, domestic work) and are more often victims to illegal/irregular labour migration than men.

Many labour migrants, who felt victim to illegal recruiting, got stranded in transit countries (mainly India) without proper documents. Some of them are forced to work in brothels. In the destination countries (for example Qatar, U.A.E. but also Malaysia), women migrants often face exploitation or get abused. Domestic workers in Gulf countries often have to hand over there documents to the employer and become bonded labours. The experiences show that illiterate and unskilled labours phase the biggest problems.

Due to lack of knowledge of their rights and the fact that Nepalese often migrate to countries with low social standards and employment rights, many of them face precarious living and working conditions; many commit suicide or get killed.

Besides this situation returning women migrants do not get enough attention. Returning women migrants face social stigmatisation, are often traumatised, have lost their family relationship, and are still indebted due to the high agency fees, they could not pay back during there time abroad, don’t know how to make productive use of the saved money and have difficulties to reintegrate after their return.

It is therefore important to provide incentives for alternative income opportunities in the country of origin (e.g. micro enterprises) – for potential and returning women migrants.

Since 2007 Nepal has a ‘Foreign Employment Act’, which lists in detail many provisions and conditions that have to be met before labour migration is approved officially. In addition, the 3-year interim plan (2008-2011) for the development of Nepal (Chapter 17, Labour Management and Employment Promotion) prioritises the need for the management of safe migration. Until recently, labour migration of women was forbidden. As a result, many women migrated illegally via India and worked in informal sectors in the destination countries. This gender discriminatory practise was abolished upon the formal complaint of the local NGO Pourakhi, AWO Internationals implementing partner of the new migration project in Nepal. However, there is a decisive lack of implementation of the Act’s rules and provisions and therefore a policy gap.

AWO International contributes in the sector of Women Migration to mitigate vulnerabilities among the potential and returning migrants in close collaboration with the national NGO Pourakhi (Women Migrant Workers’ Group: www.pourakhi.org.np) that was founded by returning migrants and has deep expertise to address this issue. The Contract of Cooperation (CoC) was awarded for 13 months long as an initial project phase. The project is implemented in seven Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Kathmandu district.

The planned cooperation project pursues an integrated approach with three components:

Ø      Institutional development and awareness raising on save migration shall prevent irregular/illegal labour migration and shall contribute to built-up and/or strengthen effective local structures (local NGOs, community based organizations and networks) to support potential and returning women migrant in a sustainable way

Ø      Income generating activities will help to develop employment and entrepreneurship skills. Capacity Development interventions for setting up micro enterprises for potential and returning women migrants shall promote livelihoods and demonstrate alternatives to labour migration i.e. unsafe and forced migration

Ø       Advocacy related measures will address the challenge of lacking implementation of the existing migration policy in coordination with government actors and other relevant stakeholders. Effective implementation of the existing migration policy, a better recognition of the specific situation of women in the migration cycle and information sharing in migration context (for example by provision of developed IEC-materials at Tribhuvan International Airport Kathmandu) also promoted by the project

The project budget for the first phase of cooperation (1st December 2012 – 31st December 2013) is 66.220.- Euro. Joint planning for another three years phase is in process.

Project launch with local stakeholders at Setidevi VDC

POURAKHI Chairperson Manju Gurung, AWO International Program Coordinator Rejina Joshi and Regional Director Felix Neuhaus present the Contract of Cooperation

Signing the project agreement between AWO International and Social Welfare Council