On the day that reminds us that we must continue on the road towards achieving an effective gender equality, women are not only metaphorically ‘en route’. In fact, an ever-larger number of women, often with children, are coming to Europe: 170,000 from June 2015 to date.
As also reported by the UNHCR, all migrants face a dangerous voyage but women are particularly exposed to violence and abuse. The categories of women particularly at risk and requiring special protection are women traveling alone or only accompanied by children; pregnant women, teenage girls, and young women who are already mothers. These women are often escaping violence in their own Countries of origin; then, during their journey, they often suffer sexual abuse by traffickers but also by fellow-migrants.
Yet women embody the greatest hope of integration; educating girls and empowering women is a message that equally applies to Europe and to the Countries from which many migrant women and refugees originate and it is the road we must undertake in pursuing a fairer and better integrated society.
Women like Aziza, a widow who travelled from Iran all the way to Greece with her disabled 19-year-old daughter on a wheelchair. Although elderly and fragile, Aziza literally carried her daughter over long stretches of road, saying: “If we get to Europe, they will be able to treat her”.
Or women like Tehmina who, nine months pregnant, arrived in Greece but did not want to “interrupt” her voyage to give birth and was back on track only half an hour after delivery, carrying her baby in her arms.