Panel 5

African Women Migrants: Reflections Along the Journey

Panel organisers: Hanna Amanuel, Danait Mengist and Luwam Dirar.


Predominant discourses on migration today often reduce migrant experiences to acts of economic upward mobility—with a hyper-emphasis on South-North migration, while deflecting attention from the more common South-South migration—and/or spectacular expressions of political protest against ‘failed’ African states. In this panel, we argue that the causes of migration are not easily generalizable. While we do not aim to list all the push and pull factors for African migrants, we seek to disaggregate the category of African migrants by focusing on the experiences of African women at three key points along their journeys: at home, in transit, and at the destination. As Eritrean migrant women drawing from legal and African studies, we aim to discuss the gendered aspects of migration within and from Africa—a lens that is often overlooked.

The key questions that orient this panel includes: what gendered factors motivate women—across various ethnic, geographic, and class lines—to leave ‘home’? How do African women migrants ‘in transit’ construct and navigate their womanhood's and sexualities? How are African women migrants imagined by state and non-state actors (i.e. the police, healthcare providers, humanitarian aid organizers)? Lastly, once they have reached their ‘destination’, how do the policies of bodies like the European Union frame and approach African women migrants? The panel will conclude with policy recommendations that take seriously the complex, gendered experiences of African women migrants.

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