Women on the move: session reflection

Dr. Kelly Thompson, Gender Specialist for Women in Global Health, was joined by Dr. Mary Manandhar, Technical Officer (Gender) in the Gender, Equity and Human Rights team at the World Health Organization, and Dr. Sarah Gammage of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) for this lunch session 'Women on the move: migration, care work and health'. Dr. Manandhar and Gammage spoke about the newly released 'Women on the Move: Migration, care work and health' from the World Health Organization.

Executive Summary:

A global paradox is emerging in which care workers - who are largely migrant women, often working in informal home settings - make a considerable contribution to public health in many countries but are themselves exposed to health risks, face barriers to accessing care, and enjoy few labour and social protections.

WHO has produced a new report on this population group, collating evidence across sectors. This report breaks new ground in casting a wide net across disciplines – health, labour, employment, social protection, social services, law, immigration, cross-border movement and citizenship – to shed light on a particular population group that both provides care as well as needs it to maintain their own health and well-being. It looks at the lives of these migrant women care workers as well as the situation for their households left behind. It takes a transnational perspective appropriate to our interconnected world.

Kelly shared her own experiences as a woman on the move: working in a hospital in Ireland and studying medicine in Australia. Even though she was a doctor with a formal visa and access to healthcare when she had to have emergency surgery at a hospital in the US, Kelly was told that if she wasn't well enough on the start date of her internship she shouldn't start. This is just another example of how countries are losing out on the support they need to ensure that their health systems have what they need. If they don't secure the health of those taking care of them and provide them with protections around their health, they will not be able to achieve what the best healthcare their citizens deserve.

KEY MESSAGES

  1. One in every seven people in the world is a migrant, and women are migrating as much as men

  2. Women represent the overwhelming majority of people in the care setting - transitioning from unpaid care work at home to paid care work elsewhere

  3. Migrant women working in care often do so in non-formal settings and as such lose out on social protection, labour rights and access to health care

  4. Whilst there are benefits for women care workers such as increased autonomy, more economic opportunities and new relationships and community networks, there are often deep challenges related to lack of protection and often being undervalued

  5. There is also a unique care drain happening leaving people in rural communities and the global south without the necessary care when those who would fulfill traditional care roles at home seek paid care work in cities or abroad

  6. Next steps - a) generate evidence b) improve access to UHC for migrants in care sector c) promote and recognize care

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