Migration policies in the region should be gender-sensitive, taking into account the specific accounts of men and women.
Skills training and improving standard of living
Migrants should be placed at the centre of the migration policy instead of being mere spectators to the process. Governments need to shy away from efforts to restrict the migration of women by making the process burdensome as this approach ultimately encourages irregular migration. Instead, countries of origin and host countries should work together to create a structure that facilitates safe migration and provides skill training to boost the potential of women migrants for upward mobility.
Thus, the present vicious cycle of low education and low skills, leading to low performance and lack of confidence, with disempowerment and consequent exploitation could certainly and effectively be turned around through various educational programmes targeted towards women migrant workers.
Although governments in both the source and destination countries for women migrant workers have instituted legislation and programmes to protect national workers, more stringent legislation is needed in order to protect the human rights of migrant workers from the South Asian subregion to Western Asia. In addition, civil society and community-peer programmes are needed at the grass-roots level to better inform women migrant workers of their rights, to create peer adviser communities and through education to ensure that migration work for women serves as a source of social and economic progress as opposed to a form of exploitation.
A pre-departure orientation programme for migrants is recognized as one of the most effective means to address the problems encountered by migrant workers in the destination countries. It also helps migrants adapt efficiently to changing working conditions and a new socio-cultural environment. Pre-departure orientation informs the prospective migrant about the prospects and the risks involved in working abroad. These programmes are designed to lessen the vulnerability of women migrant workers abroad and to keep them informed and empowered in relation to the labour conditions abroad (IOM 2005).
International organizations and grass-roots NGOs have been working to develop safe migration and provide services to women migrants in Western Asia. One of the most effective services carried out by various organizations are pre-departure orientations for potential women migrant workers. These orientations can take place formally at training institutes or informally through a network of returnee women migrant workers.
At the training institutes, women migrant workers are taught grooming and other skills, which boost their confidence and alter their personal interaction style with their employer. The training institutes work with women migrant workers and provide personal presentation training.
Language training is also a vital skill to be developed by women migrants and the minimum must include guidance on greetings and introductions, and comprehension of most repeated orders. A better understanding of the culture of the country of destination would make women migrant workers feel more at ease and enable her to slowly adjust to the cultural norms of her country of employment. However, trainings often fail to deal with rights and empowerment, which are essential for addressing rights violations of women migrant workers from South Asia.
Better policies and laws promoting safe migration
All countries have legislation to regulate the flow of migrants and to control out-migration. A striking aspect of the emigration policy of the South Asian countries, as noted by Oishi (2005), is that the policies treat men and women differently. Migration policies in the subregions often place women at the margins, reproducing existing gender stereotypes—women as victims of all sort of violations and incapable of deciding on cross-border migration. The State intervenes to protect and control women, thereby curtailing the right to make their own decision and earn a decent living. Instead, policies should adequately take into account specific needs and vulnerabilities of women, while empowering them and protecting their rights.
Specific contracts and supporting legislations for migrant domestic workers are one step in protecting their rights. An example of such a contract is the UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported Special Unified Working Contract for Non-Jordanian Domestic Workers in Jordan in 2003. This provided an important legal framework for protecting the rights of migrant workers in Jordan. The contract is now a prerequisite for migrant workers to obtain temporary residency in Jordan, and is the basis on which a legal visa and a work permit are issued. The contract was the outcome of an MOU signed by UNIFEM and the Jordanian Ministry of Labour in 2001 aimed at developing a legally binding document to help prevent the abuse of migrant workers by employers, and to ensure that all migrant workers in Jordan are covered by a unified contract recognized by the Government. A national steering committee was created to develop the contract, which included a wide range of stakeholders working on migrant issues such as the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Labour, Police Department, Family Protection Unit, Jordanian National Commission for Women, Jordanian Union for Women, the Embassy of Sri Lanka, the Embassy of the Philippines, the Embassy of Indonesia, Friends of Migrant Women Workers’ Association and UN Women.