Your Excellency Mr. Kim Hak-su, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP,
Representatives of International Agencies,
First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your attendance. We in Indonesia are grateful for the privilege of hosting, in collaboration with UNESCAP, this important side event, which is part of the pathway toward the High-level Dialogue on International Migration this coming September.
It is generally agreed that, on the whole, migration is a positive phenomenon that can help countries and communities strengthen their development potential. However, as we all know, it is a complex issue, especially its gender dimension.
Indeed, most migrants are women. They migrate to seek a better life both for themselves and their families. To them migration is a matter of survival.
Migrant workers make substantial economic contributions to their countries of origin. At the same time, they also benefit the receiving countries. Globalization has expanded and accelerated the trade in goods and services among countries, and is a powerful prod for countries to become more competitive. To maintain their competitiveness and their rate of growth, many countries make use of the services of migrant workers—both in the market and non-market sectors.
Men and women experience immigration in different ways. While men migrants basically respond to shortage of workers in sectors that are not attractive to the local population, many women migrate to respond to the transfer of “care work” from local to migrant workers, as the social situation changes in the developed countries.
Many women migrate voluntarily. However, many of them are forced to migrate to survive, as employment and sources of livelihood are insufficient in their countries of origin. In fact, poverty and lack of access to economic resources in many developing countries are the main factors behind the migration of women.
In many developing countries in the region including Indonesia, women migrant workers suffer many disadvantages. Low levels of education and skill, and ignorance of the working situation abroad, often characterize their plight. This is made worse by deficiencies in the information provided to them and the procedures they undergo when they migrate.
The gender issue is linked to different aspects of migration. Patriarchal norms and values in the community often drive women to migrate. Absence of gender concerns in the management of migration has pushed women into a position of vulnerability throughout all the processes of migration starting from recruitment until their return home. Being so vulnerable they bear a great deal of abuse and all kinds of exploitation.
It is also a fact that in receiving countries, despite the increasing demand for labor provided by migrant workers, there is resistance to the explicit recognition of their existence. This reluctance to recognize the contributions of migrant workers is often due to anti-immigrant notions that are tinged with xenophobia and racism. The patriarchal values among the population in receiving countries also determine how migrant workers are treated. For women migrant workers, already enduring many disadvantages, this puts them in such misery that it constitutes a violation of their human rights.
To a country like Indonesia, the economic contributions of women, who form the majority of migrant workers, are very significant. Constituting more than 70 percent of the country’s 2.8 million migrant workers, they contributed more than US$2.9 billion to the Indonesian economy last year.
I believe women migrant workers from other countries in the region make similar contributions to the economies of their respective countries.
In view of their contributions, it is only fair and just, as well as wise and prudent, to give them better protection than they are receiving now. Considering their greater vulnerability, women migrant workers should get more of our attention and their plight should be thoroughly examined.
All nations have committed themselves to the protection of and respect for the human rights of every human being through the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The human rights of women migrant workers are included in this commitment. The plight of women migrant workers is therefore a human rights issue. For this to be recognized and for action to be taken to better protect women migrant workers, we pin our hopes on the High Level Dialogue to be held in September 2006.
At the same time, we call for regional and international cooperation to bring about greater recognition of the contributions of women migrant workers to the well being of nations. We also call for the strengthening of the implementation of the Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
While many developing countries are still mired in poverty and lack of economic resources, it is the collective responsibility of regional countries and the international community to alleviate the plight of women migrant workers. Both countries of origin and receiving countries must work closely together to offset anti-immigrant ideologies that can harshly impact on the situation of migrant workers.
Migration of workers not only has an economic impact, which is often positive; it also has a social impact, which is too often negative. We should pay more attention on the impact of migration on the members of the families that migrant workers leave behind.
And, indeed, we the nations of Asia and the Pacific should launch comprehensive and concerted efforts to ensure that the human rights of migrant workers, including and especially women migrant workers, are given the highest respect and protection. If we fail to do that, we fail our own humanity.
With that thought, I now declare the Side Event on the Gender Dimension of International Migration and the Preparations for the High-level Dialogue on International Migration 2006 open. May God Almighty bless our endeavours.
I thank you.