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United Nations International Research and Training, Institute for the Advancement of Women

Crossing borders: Remittances, gender and development

Carlota Ramirez, Mar Garcia Dominquez & Julia Miquez Morais

United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women

June 2005

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In the current phase of globalization, international migration motivated by economic reasons is a phenomenon that affects increasing numbers of people, households and communities worldwide. In order to maintain contact with their families and communities of origins, migrants expand their relationships across geographical, political, economic, and cultural boundaries, creating transnational families and communities. Within these social fields of interaction there is a constant flow of resources and discourses that question and transform traditional ideas of identity and belonging.

Remittances –money earned by migrants working abroad that is sent back homeconstitute the monetary, as well as the most visible aspect of this constant circulation between migrants and their countries of origin. In the last decade, remittances have emerged as the second largest source of external funding for developing countries and their volume continues to grow. This flow of money has caught the attention of governments and financial and development institutions, who have begun to identify and implement initiatives aimed at maximizing the impact of remittances for poverty reduction and local development.

Women are an increasing part of migratory movements. As active participants in these movements, they contribute to the maintenance of their households and to the development of their communities of origin through the sending of remittances. However, gender inequalities differentiate the migratory experience for men and women. The decision to migrate, the networks utilized or the individual migrant’s insertion into the labour markets of the destination country, to mention only a few factors, are all affected by gender differences. In this regard, the money remitted, the frequency of remittances, the channels used or the impact of remittances on the development of the country of origin are equally impacted by gender.

Despite the growing number of women migrants and the importance of remittances for the material wellbeing of many families in developing countries, very few studies analyze the relationship between gender and remittances. This dearth is particularly disconcerting in view of the evidence that shows that integrating a gender perspective into international development policies and programmes increases their effectiveness and sustainability. A critical review of the flows and impacts of remittances from a gender perspective is crucial for the design and successful implementation of programmes intended to harness the development potential of remittances.

This paper is INSTRAW’s contribution to the current debate on the link between remittances and development. Its purpose is to present key elements for the development of a preliminary framework that will strengthen the understanding of the interrelationships between migration, gender, remittances and development and also serve as an entry point for future research and project proposals. This framework aims to establish the basis for formulating a more adequate response to questions such as: how does the growing feminization of migration affect remittance flows?, how can remittances contribute to the achievement of gender equality?, and how can we mobilize remittances to achieve sustainable development that includes women? To this end, the paper reviews the main elements that are in play and that cannot be overlooked in a gender analysis of the sending, use and impact of remittances.

Gender is not an arbitrary choice. As a social construction that organizes relations between men and women, gender is central to the migratory experience, differentiating the experiences of settlement in the destination countries, and the relationships that migrants maintain with their countries of origin. In order to explore these differential relationships, this document is organized in five sections. The first section describes the feminization of migration within the context of globalization. The second reviews the relevant literature on remittances, while in the third section, the relationship between gender and remittances is explored and a theoretical framework for a gendered analysis of remittances is established. The fourth section explores experiences in the use of remittances for promoting development and the impact of remittances on poverty reduction and gender equality. The final section concludes with some recommendations for future research.

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