The research explores the links between migration of adolescent girls and development in the Global South through a holistic approach that contextualises adolescents’ and young women’s agency, choices and migration experiences. More migrants move within their own region than migrate to North countries. This mixed-method and multi-sited research focuses on adolescent girls who migrate internally and internationally from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sudan. By considering different geographical realities, the research will explore variation in the impact adolescent girls’ migration has on their own lives, on their families and communities, and potentially on the social development of countries with different development scenarios.
The research fills an existing gap in knowledge about the reasons adolescent girls migrate and their aspirations and experiences. It will provide insights into their agency and capacity to choose, their future opportunities, as well as constraints and how these are shaped contextually.The project will feed into the global campaign “Destination Unknown” recently launched by Terre des Hommes (TDH) who is a project partner. The research will contribute to global policy debates by producing policy relevant analysis, data and recommendations.
In the past five years an increasing body of literature has been published that pays attention to the agency of children (see for example Huijsmans 2011), yet few of these more nuanced accounts have included the experiences of adolescent girl migrants.
This notion, which is nowadays known as the Girl Effect, has inspired an increasing number of international organizations to start investing in girls, aiming to break the cycles of poverty and in doing so work towards the social and economic development of the population as a whole.
While migration of girls is sometimes negative, when they are trafficked and exploited, the mobility of others and sometimes of these girls too may offer them new and better opportunities with positive implications for their future lives.
The aim of this research was to contribute to a gendered analysis of migration, and in particular a better understanding of the drivers of migration, the decision-making processes, and the intersection of decisions around education, marriage and reproduction in the lives of adolescent girls and young women. Specifically, we reported on girls migration patterns in Sudan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. This was followed by a comparative report to understand Adolescent Girls’ Migration in the South.
The fieldwork in Bangladesh took place between January 2014 and December 2015 among Bangladeshi adolescent girls and young women migrants.
Most of the migrants we interviewed come for vulnerable household that, at the time of their migration lacked economic and social resources. From the answers to the questionnaire and the life stories it appears clearly how the decision to migrate and the process of decision-making are the result of many interrelated factors with poverty, defined by the respondents as ‘obhab’ (literally lack) playing pivotal role in most of the cases.
By listening to girls’ migration stories we understand not just the multiplicity of circumstances behind their migration but also the complexity of the situation in which the decision to migrate maturates.
The fieldwork in Ethiopia took place between March and September 2014. The large majority of the interviewed girls reported that they took the decision to migrate themselves, sometimes without consulting their parents. There was a strong link between the decision to migrate and the negative role of step-parents, aunts and uncles, who abused the girls physically, mentally or sexually.
The fieldwork in Sudan took place between March 2014 and September 2015 among Eritrean and Ethiopian adolescent girl and young women migrants and refugees.
he combination of economic pressures faced by their families, often households experiencing crisis due to the death of one or both parents or separation, abuse experienced from relatives or step-parents, lack of educational and work opportunities, and in some cases religious and political pressures, provided the background to girls’ decision-making processes with regards to migration.
Young Eritrean girls and women refugees often referred to the pressure of national service, the lack of work opportunities, political and religious persecution, as well as the impossibility of achieving a life one would like to have.
Other key factors behind the decisions of both Ethiopian and Eritrean adolescent girls and young women to migrate are linked to the gender norms that operate in both societies.
Adolescent girls are increasingly being identified as a crucial segment of the population, whose successful transition into adulthood is of major importance for their own lives and that of the people around them (see Temin et al.). This notion, which is nowadays known as the Girl Effect, has inspired an increasing number of international organizations to start investing in girls, aiming to break the cycles of poverty and in doing so work towards the social and economic development of the population as a whole.
The migration of adolescent girls can have major implications for their transition into adulthood. While migration of girls is sometimes negative, when they are trafficked and exploited, the mobility of others and sometimes of these girls too may offer them new and better opportunities with positive implications for their future lives.
This book provides a nuanced, complex, comparative analysis of adolescent girls’ migration and mobility in the Global South. The stories and the narratives of migrant girls collected in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sudan guide the readers in drawing the contours of their lives on the move, a complex, fluid scenario of choices, constraints, setbacks, risks, aspirations and experiences in which internal or international migration plays a pivotal role. The main argument of the book is that migration of adolescent girls intersects with other important transitions in their lives, such as those related to education, work, marriage and childbearing, and that this affects their transition into adulthood in various ways. While migration is sometimes negative, it can also offer girls new and better opportunities with positive implications for their future lives. The book explores also how concepts of adolescence and adulthood for girls are being transformed in the context of migration.
Graduate Institute Geneva
Royal University of Dhaka
Marina de Regt
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
IOM International Organisation for Migration
Graduate Institute Geneva
Md Kamal Uddin
Graduate Institute Geneva
Ahfad University for Women
Nicoletta Del Franco
Terre des Hommes
University of Sussex