Race, Gender and Migration
October 13th, 2016
In search for safety, opportunities, successes and fulfillments, women’s lives and personal experiences are marked by migration. Their gender and race influence these new markings. According to the United Nations (1990), large proportions of the world’s immigrants and refugees are women; the UN estimated that 80% of all refugees are both women and children. The United Nations (1994) claims that,“improving the status of women is increasingly recognized as fundamental to improving the basic human rights of over half the population of the world and also contributing to socioeconomic progress.” However, women who have migrated to Canada experience numerous
conflicts within their host society, complicating and or prohibiting self-expression and or socioeconomic progression.
More background information on immigrant women in Canada from Statistics Canada 2015:
The term host society, simply refers the new society that one migrates, such as Western society. In terms of self expression, heterosexual and lesbian women immigrate to Canada with restrictions on their sexuality. In many cultures, there is the pressure and importance of virginity brought from other
cultures and practiced here. In addition to these practices, a Western society imposes burdens and desires through prejudices and racism. For example, a Muslim woman immigrating to Canada with her hijab and the pressures of honouring her family by abstaining from promiscuity, may also have to deal with the West telling her that her head scarf is oppressive. Assuming the oppression of others, without listening to their beliefs and experiences, is oppressive in itself. Therefore, many migrant women are crossing sexual boundaries when they migrate to Canada. These boundary crossings
may include: refusing to marry young, living in a society where lesbianism is legal, along with the dating of men. And thus, new Canadian women also have to negotiate Americanization and Westernization, which are synonymous with promiscuity to outside cultures. Overall, family honour and women’s sexuality are inseparable for a lot of new Canadian women.
In addition to self-expression conflicts, many immigrant women experience issues with socioeconomic progression. Firstly, it is important to note that many women do not have the choice to migrate, as there are patriarchal family structures and political circumstances that force migration for women. Within transnational migration, men and women have different access to resources. However, race is also a factor. On October 7th in 3330F, we discussed the split labour market and how the racialization of immigration started to take place in 1906 to 1910; we discussed Canada’s specific desire for Chinese men to be railway workers. Moreover, we discussed the racialization
of immigrating Free Blacks and strategic restrictions later made in the early 1900s, such as payments made to Black preachers to discourage Black migration to Canada from the US. Also, scarce immigration resources and offices were available to West Indians and Africans, to limit Black immigration to Canada; the nation aspiring to whiteness in the early 1900s.
These historical acts of dismissal, influenced African immigration to Canada. Wong discusses the 1996 Canadian Census in her article, which revealed that 1, 054, 190 immigrants arrived in Canada prior to 1961…only 4, 945 were Africans, accounting for 0.5% of Canada’s immigrant population. However, these numbers started to grow between 1961 and 1970, when 25, 685 Africans arrived in Canada, but only accounting for 3.3% of all new Canadians. Mind you, Africans are not all one community. Therefore, this population consists of many diverse cultural norms, practices and socioeconomic profiles (Wong 47). Within the African immigration population, are Ghanians.
Ghana’s economy has undergone a crisis of stagnation since the 1970s, declining average wages and overall decline in social and economic standards of living. Because in many Ghanian home traditions of men taking care of their families, women account for 30% of Ghanian immigrants in Canada. However, the Ghanian women who are here, generally reside in Toronto and the great Toronto area. Although these are large Canadian areas with great opportunities, many Ghanian women find themselves struggling to prosper economically. Perhaps this influenced by the old and present issues of refugee statuses and work permits.
Welcome to Canada...
In between 1981 and 1996, many Ghanian women had to wait ridiculous amounts of time for
refugee claimants in Canada. In the meantime, work permits were also hard to attain for Ghanian women, relating to the historical undesired want for African and African women immigrants in Canada by the government. However, when and if Ghanian women received work permits, they were
required to pay a fee of $75 every six months, which then increased to $125 every six months. Coming from a poor economy with the hopes of succeeding in a more prosperous economy, you can see how these circumstances are discouraging and inconvenient.
In between refugee claimant and work permit struggles, many Ghanian women are expected to send money back to their families. Remittance, a transfer of money by a foreign worker to an individual in his or her home country and money sent home by migrants, can be burdensome for new Canadians experiencing racism and sexism. Not only did and do Ghanian women have to deal with not being desired as Black female worker in Canada, their credentials, along with other immigrant women’s credentials, are often dismissed and deemed less than Canadian credentials and experiences.
Madeline Wong shared interviews with Ghanian women, which revealed that the majority of them have a high-school diploma and post-secondary training. However, they are denied these positions in Canada, which usually come with social benefits and good pay to support their families. This has left Ghanian women,capable of being more prosperous, in precarious and deskilled positions.
Here are some examples:
Biama, teacher in Ghana...to Sorter at clothes factory in Canada
Edna, Maternity Nurse in Ghana...to Quality Controller of auto parts
Video example of financial strain on immigrant women in Canada:
Although Canada has many opportunities and is safer than a lot of other countries, it is evident that there has been social disenfranchisement, along with diverse sexuality negotiations for new Canadian women. All of which has been influenced by strategic practices in history and the present day. Canadian citizens are encouraged to assert themselves in more diverse policy making when possible!