Bangladeshi Women and Migration

Learning to Swim in Turbulent Waters: Women’s Migration at the Agency-Exploitation Nexus” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1612935) is a new article by Thérèse Blanchet of the Drishti Research Centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Samantha K. Watson of the Department of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, UK.

The abstract for the paper states:

The last two decades have witnessed shifts in official representations of women’s international migration in Bangladesh. An historic preoccupation with risk/danger, in which (poor) women’s international mobility was presented as synonymous with “sex trafficking” has latterly been superseded by more “positive” images. More recently, the government has taken steps to actively promote women’s migration for “low-skilled” labour to, primarily, the Middle East. This shift is mirrored in a reconfiguration of awareness-raising and training initiatives targeting aspiring women migrant workers. The “counter-trafficking” programmes that once dominated, with their focus on risks/dangers, have begun to be supplanted by curricula representing women’s international migration as “a legitimate and respectable option.” This, new, pro-female-migration, stance presents a widening of women’s opportunities – and an overt challenge to the stigmas tainting female transnational mobility in “good society,” yet its progressive goals are partial and unstable. While restrictions on women’s mobility are demonstrably harmful, it does not follow that the active promotion of international migration – as a disciplined and devalued labour force – is progressive. This article explores these tensions based on 18 months of qualitative and ethnographic fieldwork following women participating in one such “new generation” anti-trafficking initiative.

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