Enhancing the visibility of migrant women across Europe


WEMov exhibition and policy recommendations on women migrants acknowledging the relevance of women in migration dynamics and decision processes

On 10 April 2024, the European Parliament adopted a set of legislative texts to reform the Migration and Asylum Pact. The Package aims to reform the current European rules for migrants and asylum seekers. The new rules will ensure responsibility sharing among member states in managing migrant arrivals, more efficient response in case of crisis, and respect for fundamental rights.

In this current and animated legislative context, Women on the Move COST Action (WEMov) was invited by MEP Sylvie Guillaume to exhibit its work at the European Parliament from 9 -12 April 2024. The opening took place on 9 April before the vote, followed by a roundtable in the COST premises the following day.

For too long women have remained in the shadow and quoted through the prism of men’s migration. The image of women such as wives, sisters, and daughters, as ‘followers’ of male migration is being challenged by a new wave of studies acknowledging the relevance of women in migration dynamics and decision processes.

It is necessary to change the current narrative to stop portraying women in migration as burdens to the receiving nations, but rather as valuable contributors to sending and receiving societies.”

Marie Ruiz, Chair of WEMov

This WEMov exhibition displays through posters women’s migration across time, in Europe and across the globe. This timeline reveals an overwhelming presence of lesser-known women featuring them across the ages through stories, letters, photographs, and testimonials with exceptional mobility. To challenge these biased and incomplete perceptions of women migrants, these testimonials reveal both their resources and the obstacles they face in the migration process. As such, it shows migration as a deeply gendered process.

“While the Asylum and Migration Pact, which includes very negative provisions against migrants, has just been voted on in plenary of the European Parliament, this exhibition reminds us that migration is not a threat and that on the contrary, it is vital to seize the opportunities it offers. For years, I have been arguing for a more positive vision and analysis of this phenomenon and I am delighted to see the work carried out by the ‘Women on the Move’ network in this regard.”

Sylvie Guillaume, MEP: Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

“Gender equality is a fundamental principle of the European Union. The European Commission has shown strong commitment to achieving this goal. I would like to applaud, Women on the Move, for bringing together these experts in preparation for this exhibition” shared David Kerr, Member of Cabinet of Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli.

This remarkable work closes a loop of almost 4 years of research, and data collection. In addition, this exhibition completes numerous articles, publications, books, repositories, walking tours, virtual exhibitions, and other initiatives the Action has developed throughout these last years in enhancing the visibility of migrant women across Europe.

“The COST Women on the Move Action did a great job in shedding light on the forgotten voices and lives of migrant women throughout history. It did so by producing an extended variety of outputs including exhibitions, videos, visuals, and repositories of articles and other sources on migrant women. Marie Ruiz and her colleagues managed to build a wide international research network working on this topic from different countries and disciplines. I hope they will continue this work in the future and further unveil the role played by women in past and present migration processes., adds Ludovica Banfi, The European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights.

The ground for future legislation

On 10 April 2024, WEMov hosted a round table to bridge the gap between academia and politics and draw attention to the experiences of women migrants. The meeting brought together researchers, decision-makers, and NGO representatives to discuss the rationales and specificities of women’s migration across Europe.

Marie Ruiz, the Action Chair welcomed, among others, Lesia Radelicki – Cabinet Member of the EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, Janine McGinn – European Institute for Gender Equality; Ludovica Banfi – EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Teresa Girón – Ödos Program, Virginia Wangare Greiner – African Women in Germany, Ophélie Marrel – CNCDH, and Andrej Sebesta from the European Parliament to dialogue with WEMov network members.

WEMov is preparing a set of policy recommendations that serve as a basis for discussing and adapting future legislation that will be available soon. The recommendations focus on three key topics and were used to guide discussions with stakeholder: reception centers dedicated to women; gender disaggregated data; and deskilling.

Reception centers dedicated to women

Refugee camps, shelters, hotspots, reception or migrant centers; semi-closed or closed centers, and even detention centers are the numerous typologies used to welcome refugees, and asylum seekers among whom there are many women. Developing adapted approaches and mechanisms to assess the needs of women is crucial for their well-being. In addition, identifying vulnerabilities and providing trained staff in gendered aspects of migration are relevant in this context. WEMov considers that reception centers are inadequate for migrant women due to their specific needs.

The Emet Foundation would like to thank Marie, Stellamarina Donato and COST for the opportunity to participate in this interesting and innovative meeting. The exhibition in the European Parliament seems to us very innovative and provides a global vision of women’s migration in history, which we would love to bring to Spain. On the other hand, at the round table, questions were raised that are very important to us when it comes to welcoming women and children who arrive irregularly in Europe, to be able to make a good detection of vulnerabilities and needs, since it is clear that it is not the same to migrate for a woman or for a man, and in their inclusion process, we must provide more capacity to the host societies so that these women can make a safe and successful inclusion process. Public policies need to apply a gender and children’s approach in order to be more welcoming,” Teresa Girón, representative of the Ödos Program and Emet Foundation.

Gender disaggregated Data

Gender mainstreaming is the systematic integration of a gender perspective into all policies. Gender-disaggregated data, collected and analysed separately for men and women, reveals these disparities and empowers evidence-based policy decisions.

The policymakers need standardised methods to gather gender-specific data on migration, overseen by dedicated expert bodies that visit countries annually. A centralised database would promote understanding across nations. Gender mainstreaming in migration policies should be prioritised, and enforced by peer review involving experts from several EU countries, which includes government, NGO, and research representatives ensuring comprehensive and inclusive policies.

“It was an honour to join the panel and share the story of my great-grandmother Katarina Bohac. A woman who was so self-driven, and strong and serves as an inspiration for generations to come. This story only proves, that accurate data as well as precise records of events can and will have a positive impact on our future generations. WEMov delivered a great project, that will deepen the understanding of the complex subject of women on the move” explained Andrej Sebesta, Policy and Data Officer at the European Parliament.


Women migrants make significant contributions, but they often face deskilling, where they work in jobs below their qualifications or in different fields. This happens because their skills and qualifications aren’t recognised. As such they struggle to find information and job opportunities and they lack support in the new country. The concept of migration skills is often tied to who is considered a desirable migrant in the receiving country, leading to discrimination based on origin and language barriers. Despite education empowering women economically, gender disparities persist.

“The Exhibition and Round Table events at the European Parliament in Brussels showed that the migration of the past is similar to today’s migration. Despite being victims, Migrant Women have been agents, and leaders of Migration Development and contribute to their countries of origin through remittances to their families and children. These remittances cover the basic needs of the family e.g., food, health, and education. Migrant Women also contribute economically and socially to European Countries as workers in different fields as entrepreneurs, nurses, doctors, and researchers,” adds Virginia Wangare Greiner from African Women in Germany

“The discussions and all the participants were so inspiring. A very important event to empower migrant women and support their rights! Thank you so much for this amazing event,” concluded Ophélie Marrel from the Commission Nationale Consultative Des Droits de L’Homme in France.

Additional information

Women on the Move is a transdisciplinary network of European researchers who focus on historic and contemporary female labour mobility spanning six centuries to the present. The objective is to show the presence and economic contribution of female migrants in European history by revealing women as active migrants and builders of Europe – with economic means, belongings, assets, and social networks – capable of overcoming gendered obstacles.

Pact on Migration and Asylum

EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

European Institute for Gender Equality

Commission Nationale Consultative Des Droits de L’Homme

Ödos Program

African Women in Germany