5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Women on The Move: Stories of Resilience and Reintegration

Building on resilience and empowering women returnees: how reintegration can benefit all.

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
16:15 to 17:30

This lab will start with the stories of two ladies, who after returning home from Libya managed to process their migration journey and make a successful fresh start back home. The discussion will be sparked by IOM and ITC representatives and Mariam Yassin from the government of Somalia to debate about the challenges and opportunities of return and reintegration for girls and women from a social and economic prospective. The accent will be put on the resilience shown by migrant women as agent of their own life, who can rebuild their lives and bring positive contributions to the communities they live in. This lab will also approach the business opportunities brought by women returnees while highlighting the need for more in-depth knowledge on gender specific reintegration approaches.

Key points

  • Women returnees from irregular migration should be seen as an asset for their home countries because their experiences have made them resourceful.
  • Reintegration strategies should be designed to help them re-establish themselves in their communities, often in the face of cultural and social resistance.
  • With the right help and environment, these women can create jobs and contribute to local economic development.
  • Training should be offered in sectors that people find attractive and where there are genuine opportunities in the private sector.


Women who voluntarily return to their home countries following irregular migration need support with their reintegration. While women are a minority among irregular migrants, only accounting for 15 % of the total, they are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse on their journeys. They often face difficulties being accepted back into their local communities because of social and cultural assumptions about their experiences.

The EU and the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs programmes offering migrants who have ended up in detention centres in countries such as Libya the opportunity to return to their home countries. 

Those people who return voluntarily are offered immediate assistance by specialist teams as soon as they arrive back. This includes medical and financial aid. The approach is tailored to women's specific needs with experts on hand. The EU and the IOM have helped around 30,000 people who have decided to return voluntarily.

When it comes to reintegrating these women there are a number of factors to take into account. It is important to help women overcome cultural or social hostility following their experiences of migration. Returning women can be seen as no longer suitable for family life or marriage. Working with spiritual and religious leaders can help these women be accepted back into their communities.

Returning women are often the most resourceful members of their communities because they have taken the decision to pursue the path of irregular migration as a way of realising their dreams for a better life. They should be seen as a resource for their communities because of the resilience they have shown. These women should be given the skills and opportunities they need to make an active contribution to economic development.

For example, a young woman from Guinea who returned from a job working as a domestic servant for a family in Libya completed her studies to become a midwife when she arrived home and was able to re-establish herself in her community.

In other cases, women returning have been given training in management and running businesses. Empowering women in this way can help reduce the incentive for irregular migration because their income can lessen the pressure on male family members to try to make it to Europe.

Ensuring that there are sustainable jobs is one way of tackling one of the drivers of irregular migration. Most of the people who decided to make their way to Europe via irregular channels had jobs rather than being unemployed. What motivated their decision to leave was the quality of jobs that were available.

It is important to offer training in sectors that are expanding and that interest young people such as information and communications technology or fashion and design. Training should also be closely linked to labour market demands to ensure that there are genuine opportunities in the private sector.


There was a surge in irregular migration from the Gambia when the mobile phone market there was liberalised and people in remote villages were able to contact friends and relatives who had made it to Europe.

Organised by


Didier Versé
Head of Unit
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
Fatou Mbenga Jallow
Project Coordinator & Senior Technical Adviser
International Trade Centre (ITC)
Mariam Yassin Hagi Yussuf
Special Envoy for Migrants and Children's Rights
Government of Somalia
Guglielmo Schinina
Head, Mental Health, Psychosocial Response and Intercultural Communication, DMM/MHD
Idrissa Sompare
Programme Manager, EU-IOM Joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Guinea