Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...


Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...

GAATW Publications

Issue 10: Women Workers Organise

Dear friends,

We are pleased to bring you the May 2023 issue of Our Work, Our Lives which focusses on women workers’ organising.GAATW Front May 2023 resize

In this issue we hear from community organisers and union leaders affiliated to AMKAS-Nepal, ARM-Lebanon, CHRCD-Sri Lanka, DoWan-Sierra Leone, ESCO-Sri Lanka, JALA PRT- Indonesia, OKUP-Bangladesh, OPSI-Indonesia, Tarangini-Nepal, WINS-India, WOFOWON-Nepal, MAP-Thailand, PTS-India and Yasanti-Indonesia.

Women who have returned after working as domestic workers (or in other low waged jobs) in foreign countries have collectivised to demand stronger social protection and a safe and fair labour migration regime. They are currently self-employed or working as daily wage labourers in their home countries.  Even when there are accusations from male family members that they are ‘wasting time in girly gossip’, returnee women migrants have sought out each other’s company. Many of them have also enjoyed working in their communities. “I joined DoWan to avoid loneliness at home and get skills training to find a job,” says Kadiatu Patricia Ado from Sierra Leone. “Earlier I was known as someone’s daughter, sister, wife, or mother. Now I am a well-known face in my community, even in my district. I am one of the trusted persons in my society,” says Indira Kharel from AMKAS-Nepal. “Despite lack of recognition from the government, we have been able to create a culture of mutual support amongst ourselves and find a social niche for ourselves,” members of the Kurunegala Migrant Societies tell us.

There are stories of organising and unionising from women domestic workers, home-based workers, porters, entertainment workers, farmers, and sex workers. “When we started speaking as a group, things did change sometimes. Not big changes but at least the behaviour of male colleagues and employers changed a little. When we started to respect ourselves, we noticed that people also treated us with some respect in public places,” Ayushma KC, an entertainment worker leader from WOFOWON tells us. Erna Maria from Jogja City Homeworkers Federation explains that by joining the union, she learnt about workers’ rights and how to fight for it. Her words are echoed by members of the women farmers’ cooperative in Tirupati, India who say, “We thought that if we present our situation to policy makers as a group, there is greater possibility of being taken seriously.”

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Issue 9: Celebrating Women Leaders

Dear friends,2023 OWOL issue9

We are back with the March 2023 issue of Our Work, Our Lives after a gap of one year. From now onwards, the e-magazine will be published bi-monthly.

As before, it will bring the voices, concerns and priorities of women workers.

In preparation for this issue, we requested our members and partners from organised groups of women workers to respond to two simple questions. We wanted to know what significance, if any, 8 March has for them and what their priorities for 2023 are. Twenty-five contributions from twelve countries across Asia, Europe and Latin America reached us. It was heart-warming to note that 8 March is celebrated by all the groups to strengthen women’s movements for social justice. For all our contributors, the day is also a celebration of womanhood, of friendship and solidarity. Priorities range from long-term visions for a life of dignity and equality to more specific ones of collective well-being, just wages, insurance benefits and freedom to organise. We hope you enjoy reading the magazine as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Do write to us with your comments, suggestions, or stories for upcoming issues at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


GAATW-IS team 

Read the full issue in PDF or view using FlipHTML5

Heroes, Victims, or Slaves? Workers! Strengthening migrant and trafficked women’s rights to inclusive re/integration in Southeast Asia and Europe

In the past two decades, the migration and trafficking of women from Southeast Asia to Europe has received relatively little attention from donors, policymakers, and NGOs, compared to other migration routes. Yet Southeast Asian women continue going to Europe for work or marriage. What is their journey? Do they settle in Europe and how do they live there? Do they return to their home countries and how do they resume the life they had left behind? How do communities, societies, and governments view migrant and trafficked women?

Our new report explores these questions not only to find their answers but also to challenge what we know and how we think about women, migration, labour, and trafficking today. It describes the main challenges that migrant and trafficked women from Southeast Asia face in their socioeconomic inclusion (or re/integration) in Europe and upon return to their country of origin. It highlights examples of government and NGO programmes to support women’s socioeconomic inclusion or re/integration, as well as the women’s own understanding of the meaning of these words. It concludes with a number of broad recommendations to governments in countries of origin and destination to ensure that women’s migration benefits not only governments, businesses, and brokers, but, most of all, the women themselves.

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Building Communities of Resistance: Reflections from grassroots organisations around the world

This report is the result of a collective effort to pause, look inwards, and reflect on the process of transformative change. It collates a series of insights, challenges, and lessons learnt by and with ten grassroots organisations from Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. These organisations work closely with different communities – refugees, LGBTIQ+ people, farmers, domestic workers, girls, and adolescents – and engage in movement-building work. 

The report summarises their approaches to co-creating knowledge with communities and their principles and strategies of storytelling, meaningful participation and active listening, and building the collective power of communities and movements. It highlights our shared commitment to support marginalised groups towards realising their change agendas in a participatory, equitable, and democratic manner.

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‘I spent many days on the road but I made it here’: Socioeconomic inclusion of migrant and trafficked women in South America

This report highlights how migrant women's experiences of social inclusion and access to the labour market are shaped by their gender, ethnicity, and migration status. 

After difficult migration journeys, including spending days on the road, sleeping on the streets, going without food, facing racist or xenophobic behaviours, and fear of sexual attacks, many women found themselves employed in occupations that were below their skill levels and therefore turned to employment in the informal economy which was often gendered work in the domestic, care and cleaning sectors. In these working conditions, women were often subjected to limited or no access to social protections and labour rights, abuse, exploitation, and mistreatment. 

Furthermore, women were still expected to perform responsibilities of unpaid care work of care giving and household work for their families in addition to being breadwinners which can affect their physical, mental, and emotional health and cause “time poverty” where the very idea of free time does not exist. Oftentimes, even if women were given the opportunity to access government social programmes there were often barriers such as complex paperwork and procedures, lack of information about them among migrants, language barriers, and racist attitudes.

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‘Of Course People Will Hire the White Person’: Social and economic inclusion of migrant women in Vancouver, Canada

This report presents the findings of a research into the experiences of migrant women in Vancouver, Canada, with accessing the labour market and integrating into Canadian society. Women shared that their limited ability to speak English and the fact that their education and work experience from their home countries were not recognised in Canada were major obstacles to finding good employment. Several also shared experiences of racism or discrimination, including for seemingly minor reasons such as being unaccustomed to having small talk with customers. All this meant that migrant women often could rely only on their co-nationals for work, accommodation, and socialisation, which increased the risks of being subjected to exploitative working conditions. Overall, however, women tended to perceive Canadian society as just and fair and blame themselves for any difficult situations they faced.

The research was conducted in 2020-2021 by GAATW member SWAN, a community organisation for im/migrant sex workers in Vancouver. It involved thirty women from China, Chinese Taipei (the island of Taiwan), Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, India, and Iran.  

Read the report here.

Our Work, Our Lives, issue 8: Songs that Women Sing

Dear friends,

The March issue of Our Work, Our Lives focuses on music. Songs and music have always been powerful tools to inspire and mobilise people. They have been an integral part of social justice movements and the feminist movements have a treasure chest of powerful songs. So we thought that in March, when we celebrate International Women’s Day, it would be good to learn about the songs that our colleagues have been inspired by and use in their work. We are delighted that friends from so many countries shared songs, old and new, that they have used in their movements – for protest marches, trainings, celebrations, and solidarity gatherings. These songs raise their voice against patriarchy, discrimination, injustice, and extractivism and call for peace, freedom, and equality. Many songs are creations of groups. Some are full of humor and sarcasm. Some have anger. All are simple and powerful.

Songs have also been important for workers, including women workers. A lot of work that women do is repetitive, monotonous, time consuming, and taxing. They need patience, grit, imagination, love, and care to carry out their tasks, day in and day out. Women workers in traditional societies, like their male counterparts, have made up songs to go with work. They have sung while planting, weeding, cleaning, grinding, knitting, weaving, and putting their babies to sleep. Our friends from Aaina in Odisha, India shared a song performed by a woman farmer which is sung while planting rice.

Many songs have travelled across time and place. Bella Ciao, which many of us may know as a resistance, anti-fascist song, has its roots in the paddy fields of Po Valley in northeast Italy. The original singers of Bella Ciao in the nineteenth century were women mondine (literally “weeders”), who were bemoaning their harsh working conditions. Now the song is available in multiple languages and part of the social justice movements in many parts of the world. Even in the pre-digital era, songs like Bread and Roses and We Shall Overcome, had crossed geographical and linguistic barriers and become global. More recently, the protest march titled “el violador en tu camino” (A rapist in your way) organised by a Chilean feminist collective, LASTESIS, has gone viral and inspired women to hold street protests in many parts of the world including in Delhi and Nairobi.

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Our Work, Our Lives, issue 7: Women workers and the climate crisis

Dear friends,

The February 2022 issue of Our Work, Our Lives focuses on the climate crisis. In preparation for this issue, some self-organised groups of women workers within our alliance and our colleagues working with them held group discussions on the topic of climate change and its impacts on lives and livelihoods. We wanted to know what kind of changes women workers have observed over the years, how it impacts them, and what steps they take to address the challenges.

Interestingly, the topic of climate triggered memories of natural disasters among many groups. Kala aur Katha’s group discussion focussed on the super cyclones in Odisha in 1999 and 2019. Malati Behera remembered that fateful day when she lost her husband and 6-year-old daughter to the cyclone. Reminiscing about cyclone Fani that hit the state two decades later, women artisans from the Dom community in Odisha pointed out how even during a cyclone the horrible practice of untouchability was not forgotten.

Jannath Ferdaus, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in the garment sector in Jordan, recalled how the frequent floods and cyclones in her village displaced her family and eventually resulted in her overseas labour migration. Jane Nungari Njoroge, a Kenyan migrant domestic worker in Jordan noted that state support often does not reach to the people in need. The women’s group that Shramajivi Mahila Samity works with shared that the weather pattern has changed: “Summers are longer and harsher than before. The time of sowing of paddy has also changed, forests are no longer dense. The variety of forest produce is also slowly going down”, they said. Badabon Sangho has highlighted the link between the climate crisis, land rights and violence against women.

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Sustainable Reintegration – What Do Women Migrant Workers in the South Asia-Middle East Corridor Say?

The aim of this report is to highlight the challenges that women migrant workers from South Asia who returned from the Middle East experience when trying to resume their lives upon return. It highlights gaps in the implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable reintegration of migrants. It identifies opportunities for improvement based on migrant women’s own desires and ambitions, as well as the work of civil society organisations working with them.

The report is based on research conducted between July 2020 and March 2021 with 486 returnee migrant women from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Most had worked as domestic workers in Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon for between several months and several decades. The research employed participatory methods and explored women’s experiences with return, work and income upon return, access to government programmes, and relationships within the family and community.

Read the report here.

Read Policy Briefing: Women migrant workers are building our countries’ futures

Our Work, Our Lives, issue 6: Hopes and dreams for 2022

Dear friends,

Greetings of the New Year! Even though so far 2022 feels like Twenty-Twenty-Too, let’s hope that the situation will improve during the year. Hopefully the vaccination rates will increase significantly around the world and some degree of normalcy will return soon.

Our Work, Our Lives has reached its sixth issue which is very encouraging for a publication that relies completely on women workers and our colleagues who work closely with them. The women workers who write for the magazine are part of self-organised or community-based groups. They are at different stages of their collectivisation process. All of them meet regularly to carry out various collaborative activities. Some have facilitated discussions on various social issues and learning themes.

For the January 2022 issue of Our Work, Our Lives, we requested our sisters to share their collective hopes and dreams for the New Year with us. We made some suggestions on how they could go about their Collective Dreaming processes, but each group also had complete freedom to plan their own session in a completely different way.

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Our Work, Our Lives, issue 5: Return, reintegration, and socio-economic inclusion

Dear friends,

The December issue of Our Work, Our Lives focuses on Return, Reintegration and Socio-economic Inclusion of women migrant workers. We chose to focus on these themes because they resonate with the work of many GAATW members and partners. Some of our colleagues in South and Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America are currently doing Feminist Participatory Action Research on these topics.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in its objective 21 places an obligation on states to ‘cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration’. Given the fact that many states overtly or covertly violate international human rights laws while ‘returning’ and ‘readmitting’ migrants, objective 21 aims to address an important lacuna. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants’ study on return had pointed out that the so-called ‘voluntary return’ is not genuinely voluntary, preferable as it may be to forced return or expulsion.

Unlike return and reintegration, socio-economic inclusion often does not feature in international documents. At a time when most countries prefer to have temporary migration schemes, perhaps it is assumed that migrants would return to their home countries and reintegrate socially and economically. Yet, ideally, measures for socio-economic inclusion in countries of destination should be put in place, even for temporary migrants.

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Our Work, Our Lives, issue 4: Saying NO to gender-based violence

Dear friends,

Every year from 25 November (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day), thousands of organisations around the world, run the 16 Days Campaign to End Gender Based Violence. Launched in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, held by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, the campaign marks its 30th Anniversary this year.

The multi-year campaign theme began in 2018 to end gender-based violence in the world of work continues this year with a special focus on the link between domestic violence and the world of work. In addition, there is a 30th Anniversary theme of femicide or the gender-related killing of women. These themes are timely because there has been a surge in domestic violence and femicide during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and their negative impact on the work, livelihood, and well-being of millions of women is clearly visible.

During this year’s 16 Days campaign, our colleagues at DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era) in partnership with the International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls (INEVAWG) have highlighted the link between gender-based violence and the geopolitical powerplay, corporate domination of international trade, structural inequality between countries, and the on-going vaccine apartheid. Reiterating the data that the external debt of low-income countries has grown by 12% and that more than half of the 453 million people who could be thrown into poverty by 2030 are women, they urge us to look at the macro-economic aspects of GBV.

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Our Work, Our Lives, issue 3: Intersecting Struggles: Food, Land & Climate Justice

Dear Friends,

We bring you the October issue of Our Work, Our Lives today. The theme of this month is Intersecting Struggles: Food, Land & Climate Justice. 

We said last month that we would continue with the topic of food in October. We wanted to hear from women farmers. We also wanted to talk to women who work in the food industry – processing, packing, cooking and serving food. October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women, which many of our colleagues celebrate as Women Farmers Day. October 16 is World Food Day. So we thought that it would be interesting to talk to the women food producers and workers our members and partners work with in different parts of the world.

At this moment, human security and international solidarity are at their lowest. Contrary to what some of us had hoped for last year, militarism putting profit before people and the planet have not shown any sign of decline. Despite strong civil society mobilisation, People’s Vaccine is still a distant dream. When we look at this failure of the international community and the rise of hunger and unemployment in so many parts of the world, phrases like ‘leaving no one behind’ and ‘building back better’ sound like empty rhetoric.

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Our Work, Our Lives, issue 2: Food stories

Dear Friends,

We are delighted to bring you the second issue of Our Work, Our Lives. The theme of this month is Food Stories: leaves and flowers we eat.

Food stories are political. Policies decide who gets to eat what, how much and who makes profit on the backs of food producers. Struggles for food security and sovereignty are also integrally linked with people’s struggles to realise their rights to land, water, forest, safe environment, livelihoods, and health.     

Hunger is on the rise, with as many as 811 million people worldwide going to bed hungry every night. Even though small farmers, fishers, and indigenous people produce about 70 percent of the global food supply, they are the ones who experience food insecurity. Six out of ten people who are food insecure are women. In the words of Michael Fakhri, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, “Hunger, malnutrition and famine are not caused by inadequate amounts of food. They are caused by the political failures that restrict people’s access to adequate food.”

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Our Work, Our Lives: GAATW’s New E-Magazine

By Bandana Pattanaik

In mid-2020 when we were still sceptical and confused about online work, our colleagues in Indonesia made us feel hopeful. By holding a series of inter-movement dialogues online, they showed us how to push the limits of digital communication. As my colleague Cris and I participated in the strategic conversations via WhatsApp translation while watching the speakers via Zoom, we realised that ingenuity might be the only way forward. Our colleagues from Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India and JALA-PRT in Indonesia inspired us by developing political education handbooks for domestic workers at a time when they were also busy organising emergency support and alternative livelihood for the workers.

By early 2021, we were ready to start online conversations on women, work, and migration with our members and partners located in places with limited and unreliable internet connections. Many of these colleagues work closely with migrant and local women workers in low-wage jobs – the workers hit hardest by the ongoing pandemic. Our discussions led us to talk about women workers’ agendas for change. We also wanted to know if our colleagues facilitate workers’ organising and education.

This is how we began an experimental initiative called Women Workers for Change. It brought together twenty-five GAATW members and partners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America working with women who earn their living from domestic work, sex work, agriculture, weaving, entertainment work, garment sector work, home based work and any available daily wage work. Additionally, most of these women do all the care work for their families. These structured online discussions, which were held between April and July 2021, were an opportunity for mutual learning and strategy sharing. We now notice that those who had not focussed on workers’ organising before felt inspired to do so and want to develop their organising skills. Those who were already self-organised or worker-focussed have begun taking proactive steps towards deepening political education of workers.

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Empowering domestic workers by unpacking the forces that disempower their everyday life

Critical literacy is fundamental in the fight for social justice. In mapping the education tools available for women in low wage and informal work, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, and International Domestic Workers Federation identified a gap in linking women’s work at home and in the workplace with the larger (and rising) global inequities. While there are many trainings on collective bargaining, worker organising, and gender-based violence in the workplace, women’s struggles for labour rights require deeper exploration. There is a need to ask how capitalism and patriarchy control women’s bodies and agency throughout their lifetime. There is a need to connect the socioeconomic invisibility of women’s work to the bigger goal of securing rights for ALL workers. 

Narrative for Domestic Workers (written and developed by Self Employed Women's Association, India) and Buku Pegangan Pendidikan Politik Pekerja Rumah Tangga (written and developed by JALA PRT, Indonesia) aim to contribute to the political education of women domestic workers from India and Indonesia. The country-specific training tools are designed to be taken up by the women’s groups one at a time, with emphasis on learning through discussions and reflection. The handbooks tackle a range of obstacles to women’s advancement and participation in public life: gendered division of labour; reproductive labour and unpaid care work; domestic violence; discrimination on the basis of gender, class, caste, and ethnicity; and exploitation. As materials founded on critical literacy, they also situate women’s work in the local and global labour markets, tackling governance and labour and migration laws that affect not only women domestic workers’ right to work and mobility, but also their freedom to organise and secure collective agreements.   

Developed for and with domestic workers, Narrative for Domestic Workers and Buku Pegangan Pendidikan Politik Pekerja Rumah Tangga use conversations in tackling the systemic gender inequality that Indian and Indonesian women experience. But the conversations do not only focus on how power relations undermine women’s rights. Both handbooks also emphasise that women are sources of power and how women workers’ organising can counter the forces that disempower them.

Both Self Employed Women's Association and JALA PRT have started online dissemination of the handbooks among their networks of domestic worker organisations and women organisers. Some Kerala workers who have used the Hindi and Malayalam versions of Narrative for Domestic Workers reported reading the handbook with their older children, to better understand the politics of domestic work and migration. The material is scheduled for translation into Oriya and Bengali. Meanwhile, JALA PRT has lined up online discussions about Buku Pegangan Pendidikan Politik Pekerja Rumah Tangga, which will be shared on its social media platforms. The handbook will also be used in topic-specific discussions that JALA PRT regularly holds with domestic worker unions from North Sumatra, South Sulawesi, and Yogyakarta.

To download, click Narrative for Domestic Workers and Buku Pegangan Pendidikan Politik Pekerja Rumah Tangga.


Facts and Perspectives: Women's Labour Migration from the Philippines

This report presents findings from a small-scale research that aimed to understand the perspectives and attitudes of women migrant workers from the Philippines on return and reintegration. It shows that women's decision to return is not straightforward, with many factors playing a role, such as the availability of savings, children's wellbeing, other family members' expectations, and the overall feeling of success from the migration experience. The report also provides an overview of the Philippine government policies for migrant workers, including those on return and reintegration. 

Read the report here.

See a short video that presents some of the findings:

What a Way to Make a Living: Violence and harassment faced by women migrant workers in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico

version en español

This research aimed to explore gender-based violence in the world of work from the perspective of women migrant workers. The 172 women interviewed by eight Latin American civil society organisations reported experiencing a spectrum of violence and discrimination, through dynamics created by patriarchal societies and families, racism and xenophobia and an entrenched neoliberal capitalist economy. This is creating a ‘new normal’ of permanent precarity through a lack of social coverage, poverty wages, exploitative working conditions and job insecurity.

View/download the reports:

Executive summary (English)

Resumen ejecutivo

Country reports (in Spanish) 

Mujeres de Paraguay, Bolivia y Perú trabajadoras de casa particular, textiles y ambulantes en Buenos Aires, Argentina (AMUMRA, Argentina)

La industria de la moda en Sao Paulo (ASBRAD, Brazil)

Trabajadoras haitianas en el sector de limpieza en Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil (IBISS, Brazil)

Percepción y realidad de mujeres colombianas, venezolanas y españolas, trabajadoras migrantes de y hacia Colombia (Corporación Espacios de Mujer, Colombia)

Colombianas y Venezolanas en el sector del servicio doméstico (SINTRASEDOM, Colombia)

Migrantes internas de Jalapa y Chimaltenango trabajando en sectores informales (ECPAT, Guatemala)

Mujeres de Honduras, Guatemala,Nicaragua, Cuba y migrantes internas en el trabajo sexual, en México (Brigada Callejera de Apoyo a la Mujer "Elisa Martinez", Mexico)

Venezolanas viviendo y trabajando en Lima, Perú (CHS Alternativo, Peru)

25 Reflections for GAATW's 25th Anniversary

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) was founded in 1994 by a group of feminists engaged in the international activism around violence against women and women’s human rights. Since then, the Alliance has grown to a membership of more than 80 NGOs worldwide and has established itself as a leading voice for the protection of the rights of migrant and trafficked women. (See more about our history here.) This year, in 2019, the Alliance celebrated its 25th anniversary.

In this publication, 25 close allies of GAATW - Board members, former staff, representatives of member and partner NGOs and independent experts - share memories about their engagement with the Alliance, as well as reflections on past and recent developments in the migrant rights and anti-trafficking fields over the last 25 years. 


Read the collection of these reflections here


‘A Job at Any Cost’: Experiences of African Women Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East

To gain a better understanding on the trends, processes, challenges and opportunities around the migration of African women to the Middle East for domestic work, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) and the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) condcuted research among prospective, current and returnee migrant domestic workers from six African countries. Other interviewees included members of the women's families, government officials responsible for labour migration, private recruitment agencies, and NGOs and trade unions working with migrant domestic workers. 

Across the six locations, the research found that lack of economic opportunities and decent jobs are the main reason why an increasing number of women migrate to the Middle East for domestic work. At the same time, the regulatory, institutional and policy frameworks are lagging behind this trend and failing to ensure the safe migration and human rights of migrant domestic workers. Most of the women who participated in the research saw their migration bottom line as generally positive: their overseas work had allowed them to suppor their families, buy a piece of land, or start a small businesses. However, the vast majority had also faced various hardships, such as deception by recruiters, long working hours with little rest, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, underpayment or non-payment of wages, health problems, and others. 


Consolidated report: 'A Job at Any Cost’: Experiences of African Women Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East

Ethiopia country report

Ghana country report 

Kenya country report

Tanzania and Zanzibar country report 

Uganda country report 


Learning from the Lived Experiences of Women Migrant Workers

In 2018, the International Secretariat of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW-IS) worked with partners in nine migrant-sending and receiving countries to document the lived experiences of women workers with regard to their migration . The research went beyong taking note of the forms and levels of violence that women migrant workers faced: it took a close look at the structural inequalities embedded into the current migration regime that allow such violence to persist.

This Report draws on the findings of a feminist participatory action research (FPAR), through which project partners spoke with 214 women migrant workers across the nine countries. Most of the women came from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and a smaller number from Benin, Guinea and the Philippines. For most, the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), Lebanon and Jordan were the main destinations.

This report is based on the thematic issues that came out of the country reports, which include: 

  • Sending countries need to evaluate the effectiveness of labour mobility restrictions currently in place, in consultation with women migrant workers, and identify how to facilitate women’s access to legal routes for migration.
  • Information on safe migration needs to reach potential migrants not at the pre-departure phase, but at the pre-decision phase. Safe migration messaging is not reaching the target community through the current channels of communication. Women migrant workers trust the messages they hear from other returnees and the recruitment brokers/agents.
  • Despite the vital role that they play in improving the lives of women migrant workers, there is limited interaction between civil society organisations in sending and receiving countries. Cross-regional knowledge and information sharing can support both programme and advocacy planning and implementation.
  • Women migrant workers do not ask for rescue but for the tools that will equip them to renegotiate the power dynamics between them and the agents  and employers: they want to be able to report, reduce, and remove themselves from situations of violence without fear of criminalisation and further violence. Such tools will require policy interventions that consider their lived experiences.

Download the complete report here

Country Reports

A Feminist Participatory Action Research: Safe and Fair Migration of Bangladeshi women migrant workers, OKUP, Bangladesh.

Reclaiming Migrant Women’s Narratives: A Feminist Participatory Action Research project on ‘Safe and Fair’ Migration in Asia

In 2018-2019, the International Secretariat of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW-IS), in collaboration with eleven organisations across nine countries in Asia, carried out a Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) on “Safe and Fair Migration: A feminist perspective on women’s rights to mobility and work”.

The research aimed to deconstruct dominant understandings of safe and fair migration and reshape these concepts from a feminist perspective. It was our collective effort to deconstruct and reshape a narrative of labour migration that is safe and fair for women workers, especially those in the most marginalised segments of society. This study serves as evidence to fight for the rights of migrant workers and amplify women’s voices in the local, regional, and international migration agenda.

The reports show that Safe and Fair migration cannot happen in a silo – the factors that produce gender segregated labour markets, industries dependent on flexible, underpaid and overworked migrant labour require a systemic change. This change can happen at the grassroots level, through self-organised groups of women (migrant) workers. Overall there is a need for critical conversations about serious limitations of safe migration policies and governance mechanisms in the context of a labour market scenario is which capital and power are increasingly being taken away from workers and placed into the hands of a few, under the thumb of repressive regimes. 

The increasing reliance on migrants in certain labour sectors risks further dividing societies and fostering xenophobia, racism and anti-migrant sentiments and causing Western governments to place more restrictions on migration. The safety and fairness of migration risk being even more constrained under such pressures. It is necessary not only to highlight the positive impact of migrants on the economies of destination countries, and to counter false claims about migrants as perpetrating crime and draining the social system, but also more generally, to promote the human rights framework and the fact that all human beings are equal and deserve to be treated fairly.


Regional Report

Reclaiming Migrant Women’s Narratives: A Feminist Participatory Action Research project on ‘Safe and Fair’ Migration in Asia, GAATW

Country Reports

Expectations and Realities in Labour Migration: Experiences of Filipino Domestic Workers in a government-run shelter in Kuwait, SANDIGAN, Kuwait

Feminised Migration and Deteriorating Conditions of Employment in the Garment Industry in Cambodia: Perspectives of workers organised by CATU, Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), Cambodia

“I wish I would never have to wake up again”: Material conditions and psychological well-being of Bangladeshi women garment workers in Jordan, Nadia Afrin, Jordan

Migrant Domestic Workers’ Community Organizing within the Lebanese Socio-Legal Context, Anti-Racism Movement (ARM), Lebanon

Permanently Temporary: Ageing Sri Lankan Migrant Domestic Workers (SDMWs) and Exclusionary Social Policies in Lebanon, International Domestic Workers Federation, Lebanon

Perspective: Journey of Women Workers and Search for Change, Women Forum for Women (WOFOWON), Nepal

Safe and Fair Migration: A Feminist Perspective of Myanmar Women Migrant Workers in Mae Sot Garment Factories on Women’s Rights to Mobility and Decent Work, MAP Foundation, Thailand

Safe and Fair Migration from the Perspective of Women Migrant Garments Workers (WMGW) in Bangladesh, Karmojibi Nari, Bangladesh

Strengthening Sisterhood in Fighting for Women Migrant Workers’ Safe and Fair Migration in Curut village of Central Java, Indonesia, Legal Resources Center- Untuk Keadilan Jender Dan Hak Asasi Manusia (LRCKJHAM), Indonesia

Towards building safe and fair migration practices within the domestic workers’ communities in Kerala - Both cross border and interstate migrants, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA-Kerala), India

Women’s Right to Mobility and Right to Work: Perspectives from Migrant Women in India’s National Capital Region, Society for Labour and Development, India


Demanding Justice: Women Migrant Workers Fighting Gender-Based Violence

This report is based on research among women migrant workers carried out by thirty organisations and individual researchers across twenty-two countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The aim of the research was to document the nature of violence, harassment and exploitation that women migrant workers face, how they deal with it, and their demands for change.

Overwhelmingly, the data across continents and work sectors pointed to similar trends. Women Migrant Workers (WMWs) experience a continuum of gender-based violence and harassment, ranging from verbal insults to severe physical abuse, rape and sexual assault, psychological abuse and bullying, before, during and after their migration. WMWs do not experience physical and sexual violence and harassment as stand-alone problems. They are part of a system in which labour is violently extracted from their bodies.

Gender-based violence cannot be considered in isolation from the patriarchal, capitalist and racist system in which that violence is perpetrated. The work that many women do is systematically unrecognised and undervalued, in an economic system that seeks to continually drive down costs to extract profit at the expense of human welfare.

Download the complete 28-page report Demanding Justice: Women Migrant Workers Fighting Gender-Based Violence here.

Download the six-page summary of findings on violence and harassment that migrant domestic workers experience here.

Download the ten-page summary of findings on violence and harassment that migrant garment workers experience here.

En español: Descargue el reporte completo de 28 páginas “Exigiendo justicia: las trabajadoras migrantes que luchan contra la violencia de género” AQUI.

En français: Téléchargez l’intégralité du rapport de 28 pages « La demande de justice : les travailleuses migrantes qui luttent contre la violence sexiste » ICI

III Assessment of the Implementation of Policies to Combat Trafficking in Colombia and Guatemala

In 2018, the Corporación Espacios de Mujer and ECPAT Guatemala re-evaluated anti-trafficking legislation in Colombia and Guatemala in order to identify the gap between what the legislation states and its implementation.

2018 is a crucial year for the fight against human trafficking in Colombia since a new national strategy is expected to be developed which will guide State efforts in the coming years. This III Assessment supports the adoption of initiatives including sectoral and inter-disciplinary protocols, rules, and regulations that seek to address the issue of human trafficking in state policy. In Guatemala, legislative progress is evident through the existence of several anti-trafficking policies and the approval of two instructions to enhance trafficked persons' care and support effective research. Nevertheless, there are still challenges in achieving an effective approach to prevent human trafficking and ensure the comprehensive protection of trafficked persons.

Both countries continue to place most focus on prevention, awareness-raising and training. Protection and assistance of trafficked persons continue to be understaffed and underfunded. Both states do not address the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking. 

Download the executive summary [EN] 


En 2018 la Corporación Espacios de Mujer y ECPAT Guatemala han vuelto a evaluar la legislación contra la trata en Colombia y Guatemala para identificar la brecha existente entre lo que dice y los servicios reales que proporciona.

El 2018 es un año crucial para la lucha contra la Trata en Colombia ya que se debe elaborar la nueva Estrategia Nacional que cobijará los esfuerzos del Estado para los próximos años. Este III Balance apoya la aprobación de iniciativas, protocolos sectoriales e intersectoriales, normas y reglamentos que buscan convertir la trata de personas en Política de Estado. En Guatemala ha habido avances en materia legal a través de la existencia de diferentes normativas de lucha contra la trata y la aprobación de dos instrucciones para la atención a las personas objeto de trata y la efectiva investigación. Sin embargo, aún se enfrentan retos para lograr un abordaje eficaz del delito de trata de personas y una protección integral a las personas objeto de trata.

El eje que sigue reportando más actividad es el de prevención, con campañas de sensibilización y talleres formativos. La protección y asistencia de las personas objeto de trata continúa siendo el mayor pasivo de la acción del Estado y el presupuesto destinado a esta lucha es insuficiente.

El Estado no ha abordado los factores sociales, económicos, políticos y culturales que crean las diferentes situaciones de vulnerabilidad a la trata.

Descargar el resumen ejecutivo


Learning with Community Workers

Learning with Community Workers: Understanding Change from the Perspective of Community Workers

Community workers have been on the frontline of delivering direct services and information to individuals and communities. Their role takes on an added value as they create the foundation of community-level interventions especially in promoting women’s empowerment and in providing information about safe migration.

In 2017, the Global Alliance against Traffic in Women (GAATW) focused on the work and personal journeys of community workers in fostering women’s empowerment and social change within the community. GAATW initiated an intensive learning exercise with community workers of the Work in Freedom Project with the overall goal of recognising community workers as critical agents of change, in building an environment which is conducive to upholding women’s rights both in community and in their migration journeys.

Download the report (4114 kb)


In this 18-minute video community workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh share their personal journeys of promoting empowerment and social change through safe migration programmes in their communities. 

Sex Workers Organising for Change: Self-representation, community mobilisation, and working conditions

Sex workers organising for change

español  polski  svenska  français  italiano  português  руский  deutsch 

Sex worker rights organisations are creatively responding to violence, exploitation and other abuses within the sex industry, including instances of human trafficking, according to a new report published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Sex Workers Organising for Change: Self-representation, community mobilisation and working conditions.

The report is based on research conducted with sex worker organisations in seven countries: Canada, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, India, Thailand and New Zealand. It highlights cases where sex workers, or sex worker organisations, learnt of situations where a woman was experiencing violence, working under unacceptable conditions, or was brought to the industry through force or deception, for the purpose of exploitation. In these instances, sex workers resolved the issue as a collective, by providing advice and referral to other organisations, negotiating with the brothel owner/madam, chasing the pimp out of their area, or gathering money to help the woman return home.

Beyond support for individual cases, this report also documents how sex worker rights organisations mobilise sex workers and their allies to resist stigma, discrimination and oppression, and to collectively voice their concerns, demand their rights, and participate in public and political life. This type of collective action builds confidence in sex workers and helps them better protect themselves and their peers against violence and abuse.

Despite this important work, sex worker rights organisations are largely unrecognised and even vilified by the anti-trafficking community. In the past decade, the role of workers’ associations and trade unions in preventing and addressing human trafficking in different sectors of the economy has increasingly been recognised by anti-trafficking stakeholders. It is now widely acknowledged that organised workers are empowered workers. However, sex worker rights organisations are generally viewed with suspicion by anti-trafficking activists and, as a result, excluded from anti-trafficking responses. In some of the studied countries, we found that the contribution of sex worker organisations for anti-trafficking work was recognised by at least certain individuals in the local police or anti-trafficking unit. However, we also documented several cases where sex worker organisations had tried to join their national anti-trafficking task force or NGO network, but were either not allowed to or had to withdraw due to hostility.

Ultimately, the report demonstrates that sex worker rights organisations are human rights organisations whose primary mandate is to ensure that the human, economic, social, political, and labour rights of the people they work with are recognised and respected by state and non-state actors. We hope that it will lead to a new approach to addressing human trafficking in the sex industry—one that is based not on criminalisation and indiscriminate “raids and rescues” but on meaningful engagement with those in the industry themselves.


Complete report


Thailand                 Tailandia - español                 

New Zealand         Nueva Zelanda - español

India (English)       मराठी (Marathi)


South Africa

Spain (English)  España - español

Mexico (English)  México - español


II Critical Assessment of the Implementation of Anti–Trafficking Policy in Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala

For the second year in a row, Fundación La Paz, Corporación Espacios de Mujer and ECPAT, with the support of the International Secretariat of GAATW, conducted an analysis of anti-trafficking policies and services in Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala to assess the gap between what the legislation states and the services actually provided.

The reports find that the legislation against human trafficking is still not effectively implemented in any of the three countries. Institutions are not fulfilling all of their responsibilities nor are they facilitating the restitution of the violated rights of trafficked persons. Not only is there an inadequate budget allocation to enforce the law, but most institutions responsible for prevention, care or prosecution are unaware of the budget available for their implementation. There is no uniformity in the collection of information, which results in a high degree of ambiguity and, therefore, a lack of knowledge about the crime and associated violations. A proper recording of trafficking cases would make it possible to classify and quantify information for the purpose of designing more appropriate public policies. 

One need identified in all three countries is ongoing training of specialists involved in the processes of identification, care, protection and prosecution. Finally, it is worrisome that states generally continue to fail to link prevention strategies with public policies that deal with structural aspects, such as poverty or the guarantee of basic rights.

Download the Executive Summary

Por segundo año consecutivo Fundación La Paz, Corporación Espacios de Mujer y ECPAT, con el apoyo del secretariado internacional de GAATW, han llevado a cabo un análisis de la implementación de las políticas anti-trata en Bolivia, Colombia y Guatemala respectivamente.

Se puede afirmar que la legislación contra la trata de personas sigue sin aplicarse efectivamente en ninguno de los tres países. Las instituciones no cumplen con el total de sus responsabilidades ni se está propiciando la restitución de los derechos vulnerados a las personas objeto de trata. No solo falta la debida asignación presupuestaria específica para poder ejecutar la Ley, sino que además la mayor parte de las instituciones responsables de acciones de prevención, atención o persecución desconocen el presupuesto disponible para la ejecución de dichas acciones. Destaca también la falta de uniformidad en la recogida de información lo que conlleva una gran ambigüedad en la información disponible y por tanto un desconocimiento del delito. Un registro adecuado de los casos de trata permitiría tipificar y cuantificar la información en aras de diseñar políticas públicas más adecuadas.

Una necesidad identificada en los tres países es la formación permanente a las personas involucradas en cualquier nivel de los procesos de identificación, atención, protección y persecución del delito sobre el delito de trata de personas y en materia de derechos humanos. Por último, es preocupante que en general los Estados sigan sin relacionar las estrategias de prevención con políticas públicas que afronten aspectos estructurales como la pobreza o la falta de cobertura de derechos básicos.

Descargar el Informe Ejecutivo

II Balance de la implementación de las políticas anti-trata en Bolivia
II Balance de la implementación de las políticas anti-trata en Colombia
II Balance de la implementación de las políticas anti-trata en Guatemala


Enabling Access to Justice: A CSO Perspective on the Challenges of Realising the Rights of South Asian Migrants in the Middle East

In 2015-2016, the GAATW International Secretariat implemented a project to identify cases in which migrant workers from South Asia who had travelled to the Middle East as temporary labour migrants were trafficked, and to identify the barriers those workers faced accessing justice. A total of thirteen partner organisations from seven countries (Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Nepal and Sri Lanka) participated in the project.

This report captures one area of learning that emerged from the project: the barriers that project partners experience or observe when supporting migrant workers to access justice. It concludes with reflections on the lessons learnt by GAATW about the obstacles to justice for migrant workers, but also for organisations seeking to assist migrant workers and the effort to overcome those barriers. It highlights the complexity of human trafficking, and the many challenges along the road to justice.

Download the report


See a thirty-minute video with stories of abused or trafficked Nepali migrant women which exemplify some of the difficulties with accessing justice highlighted in the report: 


Access Unknown: Access to Justice from the Perspectives of Cambodian Migrant Workers in Thailand

Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand usually do not pursue justice after rights violations due to a lack of trust in the police and courts, research conducted by GAATW and partners found.

Lack of information about labour and migration laws and regulations was one factor among those interviewed that made them vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. When violations occurred they did not seek justice, either because they are undocumented or because they don’t believe they will receive a fair outcome against a Thai employer. Interviewees spoke of lack of examples of success that might inspire their pursuit of justice - no one they knew had successfully accessed a fair resolution though the legal system. 

These are some of the main findings of our new research ‘Access Unknown: Access to justice from the perspectives of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand’, which interviewed 59 migrant workers, men and women working in seven different industries, in Thailand and after returning home. This research aimed to examine why there is still such a significant disconnect between the currently available options in the legal system and Cambodian workers’ unwillingness or inability to practically access them.

Download the report

Critical Assessment of the Implementation of Anti-Trafficking Legislation in Bolivia, Colombia and Guatemala

The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) carried out this joint evaluation in three countries in Latin America – Bolivia, Guatemala and Colombia - with the aim of encouraging governments to improve the implementation of anti-trafficking laws and policies to better respond to the needs of trafficked persons. The report highlights (1) the existing gaps between what the anti-trafficking legislation states and the actual services provided by government agencies, and (2) concrete recommendations for the three governments to take forward.

This project was developed by Fundación La Paz in Bolivia, Corporación Espacios de Mujer in Colombia and ECPAT in Guatemala with the support from the GAATW International Secretariat and the Peruvian NGO Capital Humano y Social (CHS) Alternativo. 

Download the Executive Summary [EN, SP]

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