Social and Policy Aspects of Gender and Migration in Sudan

By Assal, Munzoul | Ahfad Journal, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Social and Policy Aspects of Gender and Migration in Sudan


Assal, Munzoul, Ahfad Journal


Introduction

Migration in Sudan has traditionally been a male phenomenon. This applies to both internal and international migration (Galal el-Din 1988, Abusharaf 2002, Assal 2010). But women did migrate too; internally and internationally although in few numbers compared to men. Seeking education, employment or accompanying husbands represent reasons for the migration of women. Most studies on population movement/s in Sudan dwell on the analysis and explanation of migration as dominated by males; whether these males move internally or cross international borders. In fact, with few exceptions, what exists is a body of research that primarily deals with internal migration, with a focus on forced migration where internal displacement has the biggest share (Abusharaf 2009, Assal 2008). The few studies that tackled international migration did not accord gender conspicuous significance. One explanation is that for Sudan gender segregated data on migration hardly exists. This is not only a result of lack of research as such, but also of the fact that there is no coherent migration policy in Sudan (Assal 2010), and where such policy exists, it is gender blind. The lack of gender segregated data on migration is severe in the case of international migration, where databases on the numbers, qualifications, destinations and conditions of female Sudanese migrants do not exist. One reason for this is the fact that there are gender gaps in many aspects of life in Sudan and migration is affected by such gap. Research on the status of women and gender gap in Sudan in relation to education and the share of women in economic activities shows that adult literacy rate for women is 51.8 percent compared to 71.1 percent for men. Employed Sudanese men constitute the majority in all sectors and account for 76 percent. Women represent only 24 percent. It is not the purpose of this article to deal with gender gap in Sudan though. The question of gender gap is mentioned here to make the point that it has implications for gender and migration, particularly its socio-political aspects, which this paper deals with (Nour 2010).

While historically migration in Sudan was male-dominated, in recent years many women also migrated. The Sudan has been ravaged by civil wars and natural disasters over the last three decades. A succession of dry seasons from the 1970s and 1990s resulted in the resettlement of close to three million people along the Nile valley and urban areas, especially Khartoum (Black et al. 2008, p. 54). Since 1983, it was estimated that one million people have fled from conflict to neighbouring countries and about 6 million others fled to other safer areas within Sudan (Assal 2004). Within the internally displaced persons (IDPs), women and children account for the majority. In some cases, women migrate alone while at others they accompany their families. Some studies on internally displaced persons in Khartoum show that the phenomenon of female headed households is widespread in IDP camps around Khartoum (De Geoffroy 2007).

The international migration of Sudanese women is not a new phenomenon as mentioned earlier and while such migration was not conspicuous until recently, at the present time females migrate in different capacities: students, professionals, wives or for family reunification purposes. Some studies suggest that Sudanese women migrate as unskilled labourers to some countries in the Middle East (Fabos 2001, Grabska 2008). But interestingly, as will be shown below, Sudan receives thousands of unskilled domestic workers who are mostly women from Ethiopia, Eritrea, China, the Philippines and Indonesia. This article deals with some of the socio-political aspects of gender and migration in Sudan. Since the focus has so far been on male migration, and since there is hardly any work done on female international migration, the article will focus on the following key aspects: (1) international migration by Sudanese women; (2) the migration of foreign women who come to Sudan as domestic workers from some selected countries; and (3) policy framework that addresses gender and migration; whether such policy framework is sensitive to the rights of migrant women or not. …

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