The government, civil society and families — all have an equal responsibility to ease the life of a returnee female migrant, said Nahida Rahman Shumona, director general, regional organisation at Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
‘We need to create awareness, we need to educate people and we need to help the returnee women migrants to reintegrate in the family and the society that they left in search of paid employment,’ she said.
In an interview with New Age, she said that 2,189 women went to work abroad in 1991; last year the number was 104,786. What a huge increase! Almost 48 times more women went to work abroad and mostly in the Middle East, she added.
Nahida Rahman Shumona further said, ‘We are living in the 21st century and women should seek out work outside the national boundary, outside the comfort of their homeland.’
‘But is it always safe? Is it always financially rewarding? These are questions, and very basic questions indeed, we must address,’ she said.
In Bangladesh, she said, ‘We do not have enough opportunities for unskilled, low-skilled and less-educated women and we have a huge number of them.’
Nahida Rahman said that they needed to find work to ensure livelihood and better living standards and society needs to engage them in employment to ensure their participation in the economic development of the country.
‘This is the reason women tend to go abroad for work for salaries between US$100.00 to US$200.00. The amount is not very attractive. Still, they go,’ she said.
The diplomat recalled that Bangladeshi women migrants were mostly unskilled. Most of them board the aircraft with a lot of hopes and dreams but they do not possess enough skills to get a good-paying work and end up mostly working as domestic help.
‘These women get recruited from the villages and get shipped off quickly by unscrupulous brokers,’ she pointed out and added, ‘These women send remittance though, whatever they earn they send 90 per cent of it back to the families in the villages.’
Nahida Rahman, who trained journalists covering migration issues at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said, ‘Life is not easy for them abroad due to lack of skills and they often cannot satisfy their employers and get humiliated, rebuked and in some cases tortured. A lot of them come back, battered, bruised and in some cases in a coffin. So, it is not safe in many instances.’
She noted that when these women workers come back from abroad, they face a lot of hurdles to reintegrate into their family and into society. There is stigma attached to migration, because they come back after a long stay in a different culture and place, she added.
They also find it difficult to reintegrate into the society that has gone through changes in their absence. They often find their hard-earned money squandered and wasted thoughtlessly by their family members, which creates friction in the families upon return.
‘Our family law places women in a disadvantaged position in terms of their control over, and access to finances and they cannot make financial decisions and act strongly as equal members of society,’ she continued.
Nahida Rahman stressed the need for creating awareness about skilled migration of women workers to reduce problems and increase remittance flow.
‘We need to educate people and we need to help the returnee women migrants to reintegrate into the family and the society that they left in search of paid employment,’ she added.
About the returnee migrants, the diplomat said that the government, civil society and families — all have an equal responsibility to ease the life of all returnee female migrants.