Helping Women Migrate Safely (Bangladesh)


Ismat Ara from Rongpur, Bangladesh, is only 23 years old but she has already experienced hardships far more than her young age expects. As an agricultural worker she could not sustain her three children and so she decided to work abroad as a domestic helper. After she sold her land to generate the 70,000 taka needed to travel to Dubai, she realized that the middleman, Shelim had duped her. She, along with 10 other women, stood at the Dubai airport, stranded for days.

Helpless and desperate, she took up a man’s offer of work, only to be sent to a house where he locked her in a room for 5 days without any food or water. She was sent back to Dhaka without any of her paper after she fought and begged to be released.Today, Ismat works as domestic help in Dhaka, working to pay off the debt she has incurred. Through support from UN Women and its Civil society partner OKUP, Ismat is working to rebuild her life.

To ensure that other women do not go through Ismat’s fate, UN Women helped the Government of Bangladesh in 2010 to establish its first Resource Center so women who wished to migrate could easily obtain correct information. Workshops and radio broadcasts have made women more aware of their rights. UN Women helped develop and broadcast a 26-episode programme on national radio in local dialects.

This programme attempted to make women migrant workers from rural districts aware of the safest ways to migrate abroad. After receiving an overwhelming response with women calling in with queries, the programme is now being replicated in 7 other local stations across the country.

Government officials, including those in embassies in countries receiving migrants, have learned to better assist women migrants who encounter difficulties. For women migrant workers of Bangladesh, the Government is reviewing its Bangladesh Overseas Employment Policy (2006) to better manage migration/women’s migration in close partnership with UN Women and Civil Society’.