12 August 2013
Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward.
How appropriate that this year’s International Youth Day theme is on the topic of Youth Migration – did you know that 30% of international migrants are youth?
While we know that many international migrants are youth it is also important to note the reasons for their migration. Some of the diverse reasons include; tertiary education, child marriage, job opportunities, reunite with their families, better health care and to escape bad situations in their native country.
No matter the reason for their migration there is always going to be risks and benefits that come with it. The risks may include trafficking, exploitation, possible legal difficulties, having to compete with locals for job opportunity, having difficulties adapting to the local culture and difficulty in interacting amongst their peers, being a foreigner. Having said this, the benefits that are reaped comprise of having better education, family reunification, extra income for the family, better health care services, being able to experience different cultures first-hand, developing an open-mind at a young age, and better job opportunities.
As people who are aware of the status of international youth migration, we celebrate the positive effect of this phenomenon; but it also our duty to find ways to minimize, and ideally eliminate, the risks of international youth migration. There are various actions that can be taken to accomplish this goal, such as concerned and responsible parties actively seeking out international youth migrants to educate them in certain areas. These areas include the knowledge that even as international youth migrants they still have rights – especially their rights to health care services and informed guidance and advice on their reproductive health, and understanding that personal legal documentation is crucial to their status in a foreign country and being aware of certain parties, such as employment agents, who may wish to take advantage of them or do them harm.
Evidently, international youth migration can be good for development when taking into consideration certain aspects which comprise of the reason behind the youths internationally migrating, the youths adaptability and support system and how knowledgeable they are about their rights and how to stay safe. Youth migration, whether international or within a country, will definitely impact the on-going development in any particular nation. Social, cultural, and trade issues can be impacted. Governmental as well as non-governmental organizations should harness this force for the benefit of the nation. First, devise some strategies and programs that will educate these youth on their rights as well as possibilities and opportunities open for them. Then reap the benefits of integrating the youth into the national development goals.
In support of International Youth Day theme, WABA Youth calls out to our global Youth breastfeeding network to Unite Together in MAKING AN IMPACT by organizing activities to discuss the challenges that youth migrants face today in their daily lives locally and abroad. It is important that we provide information to youth migrants on their rights to reproductive health, breastfeeding and maternity protection that is crucial for the sake of the health and development of their babies, and the young migrant mothers to foster a healthy society in their new home and the community that they have migrated to. In conjunction with this call, WABA Youth would like to share with you Voice of WABA YOUth and their perspectives on this year’s theme to jump start our awareness towards integrating migrant youths and to provide them with the necessary information on their rights to reproductive health, breastfeeding and maternity protection.
Manami Hongo (WABA Youth, University of Toyama, Japan)
Support for youth immigrants is very critical especially in providing young women information on health care services for reproductive health. Imagine a young women being pregnant in a foreign country, how would it be like if she has no place to reach for help? Youth, as for any youth in any situation, is often vulnerable in basic human rights, including reproductive health, due to their lack of information and confidence. Migrants may well be as nervous as they are excited. They need to have a place to relax, to share their feelings without being given criticism that they are not doing hard enough or they do not belong to the new nation. They need confidence in their decision. One of the greatest things government, community services or NGOs can do is to let the migrants have connections with their own language community with trustworthy leaders. Ideally, they should have peer groups that deal with specific life cycle topics, so that they can earn detailed information and emotional support from those in similar situation. Even if there are no such groups in their native language, it is relieving for migrants if the people in the group or at least the leaders accept and care for them, understanding that they have unique needs of emotional, social, economical and lingual support. Coming back to a young woman being pregnant in a foreign country, what kind of information would she need urgently? Information that definitely needs to include would be on safe work, delivery, breastfeeding, other childbearing support system and maternity protection in that community/country. How can she get all that information in a foreign country in foreign language if she is not fluent enough? And since it is her first experience to give birth, how would she know that she needs such information, that otherwise she may be at risk, in the first place? They may encounter similar difficulties in other situations as well. Support for youth migrants is critical. We need to unite for youth!
John Musisi (IBFAN Uganda)
In my own country a lot of young men and women are lining up at overseas employment bureaus to get their paper work done for moving to other countries for better employment opportunities. One sad thing is many end up in engaging in activities, behaviours or vices they never thought were waiting for them "over the hedge" as i may call it.
It is important for the youth to bring out discussions on this issue across the different fora and platforms.
Imagine how difficult it would be if one were a mother. This February when I was at the South African High Commission I met a mother who had a son born in South Africa but had come back to Uganda for the burial of her mom. She was being denied a visa for her child back to the country he was born in well as she was granted hers. It was a sad moment and I believe the time is now to fight for those babies without voices who have a RIGHT to their mothers no matter where they are at. How many women have been put in jails across the continents on the pretext of illegal migrants well as their children are denied their basic rights of breastfeeding or even comfort from their mothers. Bravo WABA Youth and WABA Secretariat for such fight. But the struggle continues.
Gintare Kruchinskaite (WABA YOUth 2013 Intern from Metropol University College, Copenhagen)
Being a migrant for 10 years in Denmark myself I would like to share my very personal view and I believe more migrants experience in today’s cocktail of cultures: identity. We can talk about two kinds of identities, the one that you claim yourself: for example Lithuanian (like myself) or citizen of the world as more and more migrants are starting to call themselves because they absorbed many cultures and are no longer fitting into one cultural box; and the one that others impose to you usually with hidden stigma attached to it like Eastern European (myself again). How could this be relating to pregnancy and breastfeeding? Well, currently being pregnant myself it is more than ever I think about my own identity and what I want to transmit to my child. Who am I? Where I am from? What are my values? How do I keep a piece of the culture I grew up in in my own new and very international family? Moreover, who will be my children, how will they see the world and what kind of identity will they carry? Citizens of the world? Having said that, perhaps it is important to say that it is crucial to integrate into the new society, but it also OK to keep a piece of your culture and identity without trying to become one of them, perhaps someone you are not.
I guess this is more true to more negatively stigmatized cultures and like myself I didn’t carry pride of my culture, I was trying to escape it and leave my culture behind to fully integrate and create a new identity of a "better" culture or should I say to take on someone else’s and become a Dane. Years later I realize I will never be or think like a Dane and I don’t even want to. Today I no longer try to run away from my past and pretend someone I am not, I try to learn from every culture I am exposed to and I am proud of who I am because indeed my past, my culture and my country made the person I am today. And that is what I want to teach my children – to be proud of who they are, no matter what others are imposing and to see the beauty in different cultures and celebrate them rather than being afraid of them.
We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future
Franklin D. Roosevelt
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This article was prepared by WABA Youth Secretariat Liaison Jenan Johnson and Aida Redza together with Manami Hongo, John Musisi and Gintare Krucinskaite and reviewed by WABA Management