Overview Integrate survivor support and assistance into reproductive health programmes
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Last edited: February 25, 2011

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  • There are both internal migrants -- generally rural to urban within the same country – and transnational migrants, or those who migrate from one country to another. Most often, migration is driven by poverty and lack of opportunity at home, and the perception of better employment opportunities in the destination city or country. 
  • A large proportion of women and girl migrants end up working low-paying, unstable jobs in the service industry (e.g., waitressing), or in the informal sector (domestic work, farm work, and sex work) (UNFPA, 2006a).  Female migrants of all ages are at risk for violence and sexual harassment because of issues such as isolation, exploitation, lack of legal protection, and limited access to protective services.   An IOM study in South Africa of male and female migrant farm workers determined that the female workers were particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, with the risk greatly heightened among young women (International Organization for Migration, 2009).  
  • Many migrants do not have access to adequate sexual and reproductive health care or any other health services due to lack of legal immigration status, lack of health insurance, cultural or linguistic barriers, lack of information about available services, and poverty. Female migrants who have been sexually abused or forced into sex work and live with HIV/AIDS often do not seek medical attention out of shame or fear (Global Migration Group, 2008).
  • An important first step in ensuring access to health services for migrants is addressing the need for protective laws and policies that ensure non-discrimination against migrants, and educate providers to recognize the high risk of violence among women and girls who are migrants. Laws and policies should be developed not only for migrants working in foreign countries, but also for internal migrants, and those who are repatriating to their home settings.
  • In addition, health facilities may need to conduct community outreach in order to identify and assist migrant workers.  As with any specialized population, health care providers should involve migrant workers and migrant-focused organizations in the design and delivery of community outreach.  Health facilities should make information available that is culturally sensitive, and have strategies for addressing language barriers and literacy levels of the targeted group, such as having interpreters available to assist in conducting intake interviews and in clarifying treatment processes.


Example: The Government of Jordan, in collaboration with UNIFEM, developed a labour contract for non-Jordanian domestic workers that guarantees the rights of migrant women to life insurance, medical care and rest days, and is considered a requirement for obtaining residency, a work permit and a visa to enter Jordan (United Nations Secretary General, 2009). 

Example:  The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the Philippines offers returning migrant workers health services, counselling, and voluntary HIV testing and counselling, along with many other services to assist with repatriation (UNAIDS, ILO, and IOM 2008).

Example:  In partnership with the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), UNESCO started the “Together with Migrants” project in 2002 that seeks to promote the integration of women migrant workers in the urban social and economic fabric through training in life and basic skills, vocational training, career counselling, family planning, health and rights. In recent years, the project has broaden its partnerships to include contemporary Chinese artists in order to encourage, through contemporary art, non-discriminatory public perceptions of migrant women workers (Excerpted from UNESCO, 2010).


An Action Oriented Training Manual on Gender, Migration and HIV (International Organization for Migration, 2009a). Available in English.

The Secretary-General regularly produces a report on the issue of violence against women that includes updates on member states’ activities to address the protection needs of migrants.  The 2009 report is available in English.

The Secretary-General’s database on violence against women includes a search item on migrant women that provides access to brief summaries of policies and programs focusing on migrants.  Available in English.