Migrant workers and GBV: African experts seek solutions

Labour experts at the two-day conference in Dar es Salaam

Labour experts at the two-day conference in Dar es Salaam on Monday, December 18. They convened under the ITUC-Africa to seek solutions on migrant labour governance in Africa.

Photo credit: Courtesy | ILO

African labour experts say they are working with relevant government authorities to improve the management of migrant labour, with a long-term goal of eliminating gender-based violence against vulnerable workers.

The resolutions emerged from a two-day conference that ended on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, under the auspices of the African Trade Union Migration Network (ATUMNET), a continental platform for sharing best labour practices supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the ILO, migration is and will continue to be a human phenomenon and migrant workers will continue to be useful on the continent or elsewhere in the world. But the same global labour body warns in a bulletin that: "Migration can be the basis for sustainable development, prosperity and growth if it is properly managed. It is critical to improve the governance of labour migration in order to contribute to the 2030 Agenda."

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, labour experts under the African chapter of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) say governments, labour organisations, employers and other relevant groups must work together to defend and promote migrant worker’s rights across the region as it will add to the welfare of vulnerable groups like women.

Joel Odigie General Secretary of ITUC-Africa said that “the plight of women migrant workers is exacerbated by multifaceted social, economic, and cultural factors, hindering their access to equal opportunities and fair treatment.” This means that addressing these inequities could also protect women from gender-based violence.

According to the ILO bulletin, most of the migration around the world is currently forced such as those of refugees fleeing violence. But for those moving for economic reasons, 65 percent are workers seeking greener, safer pastures.

However, countries across the continent have implemented labour laws at variance with ILO prescriptions. Some have not included gender based violence as a threat to proper governance for migrant labour, essentially discouraging movement of useful labour from among women.

ATUMNET, which includes umbrella labour bodies from 52 African countries, says it is promoting migrant workers' rights “through enhanced coordination, engagement, and capacity building.”

African countries are preparing to review the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), to address specific needs for the continent, from next year. First signed in 2018, the Compact is a UN call for safe and orderly and regular migration as negotiated under the UN to address what it calls “all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”

Today's labour laws have had to be amended to address gender-based violence, sexual offences and other rights related to bilateral agreements between countries. In fact, those rights will now have to address climate change as well as other facets of human security.

The ILO, ITUC-Africa and the Africa Union, and other regional blocs on the continent, said on Wednesday, they are working together to address “obstacles” faced by women including gender-based discrimination, exploitation, and violence, both during transit and in their destination countries.

These bodies usually cooperate under an MoU meant to combat labour exploitation, discrimination, and bolster policy advocacy.