International Women's Day 2021

Re-emphasising Women’s Right to Mobility

The Office is organizing a panel discussion to mark the International Women’s Day.

To join the webinar, please click Zoom, Facebook Live


- Dr. Binda Pandey, Member of the Parliament and
  Deputy Member, Workers' Group of ILO Governing Body
- Rameshwar Nepal, Executive Director, Equidem Nepal
- Shristi Kolakshyapati Pradhan, Senior Program Coordinator
  Women's Rehabilitation Centre
- Sandhya Basini Sitoula, Moderator     


International migration for work, including women's overseas labour migration has become an important feature of developing world particularly in Asia. Women constitute about 50% of the overseas migrant work force, and in some countries like in the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka the numbers of women migrant workers outstrip the number of male migrant workers. As per data on labour permits for 2019/21, approximately 45,000 Nepali women received permits from the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) to work abroad. However, this number does not take into account those who travel to or via India to a third country, primarily owing to the restriction on mobility placed on women by the government. 

Nepali women experience a number of unequal socio-economic determinants and barriers to entry into labour market even prior to seeking work abroad. These include lack of recognition for women's work, gender based violence, poverty, lack of equal employment opportunity and unequal pay for equal work. These factors are predictors for unsafe migration, and throughout the migration cycle women migrant workers experience a higher risk of rights violations, in part because of more limited access to and control over resources and decision-making power.9 This inequality is determined by both tangible, socio-economic factors as well as by discriminatory gender norms which limit women’s agency.  Women’s work has always been precarious, causal, informal, low-skilled, mostly unpaid, unrecognized, unvalued, undervalued and invisible. These inequalities at the beginning of the migration cycle impact on women migrant workers throughout their migration experience resulting in challenges in accessing skills, regular migration opportunities, equal wage and social security in migration. A lack of gender-responsive migration governance, in particular in the form of gender-based bans and restrictions on regular migration, directly restrict women’s access to regular migration. For low- and semi-skilled migrant workers, these risks include being trapped into jobs with poor wages and working conditions; exposure to violations of labour and other human rights; dangerous workplace and health hazards; forced labour; debt bondage; labour trafficking and other decent work deficits.

In addition to the pre-existing socio-economic barriers, the government of Nepal has, over the years, imposed several restrictions on migration for domestic work starting as early as 1985, as a measure to protect women migrant worker from exploitation However, faced with restriction, several women has opted for unofficial routes putting them at increased risk of being trafficked and exploitation. Several studies have demonstrated that restriction of women’s mobility has been far from effective to address the issues of trafficking. One of the principal causes and risk factors for forced labour and trafficking, identified by past research led by the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Work in Freedom (WiF) Programme, is restrictive and gender-insensitive migration policies. These include restrictions on movement in the form of bans and restrictions on the departure of women migrant workers and migrant domestic workers from origin countries to seek foreign employment.

Recognizing this and after several years of advocacy, on 29 September 2020, the Parliamentary Committee on Commerce, Labor and Consumer Welfare issued a directive to the Government of Nepal to relax the ban on domestic workers to Gulf Cooperation Council, Malaysia and Lebanon. Seven pre-conditions led among which many of them seem difficult fulfilling, yet the step can still be considered progressive. Therefore, based on the conditions by the Government of Nepal a discussion is deemed crucial to find a way out for these ambitious plans in an effective way.


To address the issue highlighted above, the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Work in Freedom Project (WIF) and the Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment (FAIR) will host a webinar to mark the occasion of the International Women’s Day to advocate women’s right to mobility particularly in the context of women migrant workers.

The key objectives of the programme are:

-    Advocate for women’s right to mobility
-    Enhance understanding of realities of trafficking  in the course of labour migration
-    Understand how public discourse can influence policy particularly in the case of women migrant workers
-    Generate enhanced understanding of recent policy change regarding migration of domestic migrant workers.
-    Serve as a technical session


The expected outcomes of the programme are:

-    Enhanced understanding amongst participants on the issues related to women’s mobility, the practical challenges and how public perception and media reporting can influence policies regarding women’s mobility and vice-a-versa.
-    Policy recommendations to address women’s right to mobility


Participants are representatives from government, workers’ and civil society organizations, UN Agencies, international development agencies, youth groups and media