Safe and Fair: Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the ASEAN region


Safe and Fair: Realizing women migrant workers’ rights and opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region is part of the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, a global, multi-year initiative between the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).

The ILO and UN Women are implementing the project, in collaboration with UNODC, with the overriding objective of ensuring that labour migration is safe and fair for all women in the ASEAN region.

The rationale

Close to half the 10 million migrants in the ASEAN region are women who make vital social and economic contributions to their communities and to countries of origin and destination. Migration is an essential source of income for women and their families, and can build skills and lead to empowerment. Throughout the migration cycle, however, women migrant workers face a risk of discrimination, violence, trafficking, and other rights abuses that limit their access to fair recruitment and decent work. Women migrant workers in the region also have limited access to remedy and support services in case of abuses.

Irregular migrant workers and those in the informal economy, such as in domestic work, can face greater risks due to lack of legal protections and often isolated working conditions. Violence against women migrant workers and trafficking are driven by patriarchal, gendered norms and labour migration systems that do not fully protect their rights. Gendered norms – including the use of gender-specific bans that prohibit women’s migration – also impact the migration opportunities available to women, restricting their ability to access regular migration into skilled, safe and well-paid employment.

Following the guidance provided by the ILO Convention on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work (C. 190), the project is working with Governments, employers’ organizations and workers’ organizations to change social norms around violence against women and to ensure safe and fair migration for all women in ASEAN.


1.    Women migrant workers are better protected by gender-sensitive labour migration governance frameworks;
2.    Women migrant workers are less vulnerable to violence and trafficking and benefit from coordinated responsive quality services; and
3.    Data, knowledge and attitudes on the rights and contributions of women migrant workers are improved.

Key strategies and activities

  • The project is working with stakeholders including: women migrant workers, ASEAN Member States’ government authorities, ASEAN institutions, workers, employers, civil society and community-based organizations. Adopting a rights-based approach, the project covers potential, current and returnee women migrant workers and their families. Main activities of the project are:
  • Improving the frameworks that govern labour migration and ending violence against women;
  • Improving access to information and services for women migrant workers and opportunities for them to network and organize;
  • Producing data and evidence on the experiences of women migrant workers; and
  • Campaigning to generate a better understanding of the contribution of women migrants.

Key results (2018 – 2019)

  • Law Reform: Technical support was provided to 19 legal and policy instruments ranging from labour migration regulations to national EVAW action plans and draft legislation on domestic work
  • Capacity building: Enhanced capacities of 2,152 persons from domestic worker organizations, migrant organizations, government departments and front-line service providers on women migrant workers’ rights and skills, quality and coordinated service provision to address violence against women migrant workers
  • Organization: Organized 235 women migrant workers into workers’ unions and associations or as peer networks, and facilitated the formation of 1 new migrant domestic workers’ network
  • Service provision: Provided 9,132 women migrants with psychosocial, health, social or legal services, information and skills certification.
  • Research and data: Produced and disseminated 37 knowledge products, including in different national languages.
  • Changing knowledge and attitudes: Reached 1,424,568 members of the public through public campaigns to change attitudes and behaviours towards women migrant workers and violence against women.