Understanding and empowering migrant girls.


People have always migrated as they seek better lives for themselves. This is true even for adolescent girls, who are on the move in ever greater numbers. Because of their age and sex, migrant girls are especially vulnerable to risks, such as exploitative employment. To learn more about the motivations and needs of migrant adolescent girls, Population Council staff and colleagues wrote Girls on the Move: Adolescent Girls & Migration in the Developing World, a new report in the Girls Count series.

The report is the first of its kind to examine the social and economic determinants of internal migration to urban areas for adolescent girls in developing countries, as well as the links between migration, risk, and opportunity. The report's authors--Miriam Temin, Mark R. Montgomery, Sarah Engebretsen, and Kathryn M. Barker--explore a wide range of evidence on migrant girls, including findings on programs.

Migration can certainly be risky. But the research conducted for Girls on the Move shows that given the right support and protection, adolescent girls' migration can increase their autonomy, opportunities, and economic and social well-being. To make the most of the opportunities migration can provide, girls need adequate preparation before they migrate, safe travel during their journey, and support once they arrive at their destination.

Why Girls? Why Urban Migration?

When a migrant girl is successful, she creates a ripple effect through generations: families and future children will be better off because of her ability to finish school, get a job, and stay healthy. If these girls arrive at their destination and settle in safely, their diligence and industriousness can enable them to capitalize on new opportunities and become productive, contributing members of their community--making lasting changes in their lives and the lives of their family members.

Cities are areas that provide concentrated resources that girls seek--schools, diverse job markets, health care--and new ways of thinking about gender. The authors found that girls who move to cities may be better able to make choices about their own lives, given the greater autonomy they may have after migration.

What Do We Know?

Research for the report revealed that a substantial percentage of adolescent girls in the cities of developing countries are recent in-migrants. The circumstances behind the decision to migrate vary, and the decisionmaking preceding a girl's migration can be complex...

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