The recent publication by Rebecca Walker and Jo Vearey on “Gender, Migration and Health in SADC: a Focus on Women and Girls” is a consistent, fieldwork-based attempt to provide a new, more attentive approach to the interrelation of migration, gender and health issues in South Africa and Zambia.

While the number of migrants, especially women and girls, is constantly rising, little attention is being paid to the complex interaction of migratory movements, access to health care and gender-based violence and discrimination.Yet, these factors are playing an important role in many destination countries and not only do they affect the flowing and ever changing community of migrants, but also the well being of the national population.

In their report, Walker and Vearey examine the state of art of both official and grey literature on the issue, claiming for a deeper analysis of the situations of those migrants who are denied or have limited access to health services because of their sexual identity.

According to their study, health services seem to be granted to any human being, regardless of his race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation, but in fact the actual legislative framework presents some gaps that leave women and LGTBQ+ members unprotected and vulnerable.

The report aims to increase our awareness, focusing on the interplay of these three factors and challenging the traditional heterosexual mind frame, according to which everything is defined by the “male-female” binary opposition.

Through an active research in some community practices developed in South Africa and Zambia, the authors highlight the fluidity of a concept such as gender while urging for different community practices to fill legislative voids and the absence of regional and national health services and organizations.

Through the analysis of the collected data, the research points out five key themes to help us understand the issue:


  1. the lack of an efficient policy engaging with migration and health and the responses supplied by NGOs or international organizations;
  2. the influence of the political agenda and the popular perception of migrants as scapegoats;
  3. the poor understanding of gender, bound to traditional structures, according to which women and girls are vulnerable and therefore passive;
  4. The restrictive and securitised approaches to international migration affect the health and well being of people on the move;
  5. The absence of regional coordination and cooperation in the development of responses to migration and health.


With a deep insight at the legislative situation, an interesting field work research and updated bibliographical references, this report provides an original, multi-sectoral perspective from which to move in order to understand the problem, but also create and develop new inclusive practices and health systems where really nobody is left behind.

Maria Taglioli


Tags: gender migration    SADC    Scalabrini Centre   

Categorised in: briefing paper