Huria: Journal of the Open University of Tanzania

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The Female Face of Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa

GF Masanja


This paper examines the female face of migration in sub-Saharan Africa.In the last two decades, there has been an increasing amount of research onfeminization of migration, which has begun to fill the gap created by the earlierfocus on male labour migration. Women in earlier migration research were seen ascompanions to men, passive non-decision-makers in the migration process.Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa market demand influences who migrates. The articleseeks to put in perspective the recent developments in female migration and to readdressthe question of stereotypical female migrants. To understand the dynamicsof these female migrations, the paper focuses on causes and changingconfigurations of emerging female migratory flows. More women are nowmigrating independently and as main income-earners instead of following malerelatives. Further, women’s migration experiences often differ significantly frommen’s. Female migrants are disproportionately young and single. There is lessavailability of work for women. Women particularly the younger ones from ruralareas are migrating to work as domestics. Service jobs such as domestic work, childcare, elder care, health care, are female-coded jobs in sub-Saharan Africa. Theirwages are low and not subject to regular laws of supply and demand. Themajorities are clustered in certain types of industry – particularly manufacturingand empirical evidence seems to indicate that some move into this sector from thedomestic service and the informal sector. Women migrants are found to have moresocial and economic ties to places of origin. The paper suggests that Sub-SaharanAfrican governments should pursue policies that empower migrant women, promotepro-poor employment strategies that favour informal and formal labour marketsand those which take into account women’s changing role in migratory flows andreflect the needs and priorities of migrant women.

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