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The People’s Global Action on Migration: A Focus on Migrant Human Rights

By Tequila Minsky

They came from many parts of the U.S. and the world, the 25 United Methodist Women who made up half of the United Methodist Delegation participating in the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA). The event took place in New York City from September 30-October 4.

They include Rosa Bernard from Indiana, who gives presentations almost every week on human trafficking. She was just one of the many United Methodist Women who came to hear and learn from others and share their own insights and experiences.

During a site visit in the Bronx, Rosa met with and learned about the struggles of Latino immigrants living there. “They told me how hard it is to get a green card, and how they pay almost half of their income in rent,” she said. “I will incorporate what I’ve learned into my presentations.”

This year’s theme: Building Bridges for Migrant, Labor and Human Rights

Held in conjunction with the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, PGA brings together grassroots organizations from civil society to highlight migrant issues. This was PGA’s 6th annual gathering. Four hundred leaders and activists registered for the event, and over 125 local community, grassroots and human rights organizations signed on to PGA in solidarity.

United Methodist Women co-anchored PGA with the organization Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and co-hosted the week with six other grassroots organizations, all part of an international coalition of labor, faith, human rights and migrant rights organizations working together so “migrant voices can give their concerns.”

Community prayer, workshops–mostly held at the Church Center for the United Nations, across from the U.N.–site visits and cultural presentations took place as United Methodist Women met and held dialogues with community leaders from all parts of the world who are concerned with migrant rights.

Workshops address migration

The Women and Global Migration Working Group organized two specific workshops addressing how migration impacts women who move within and across borders, and how gender is a necessary lens in shaping migration policy and development agendas.

Carol Barton, executive for community action with United Methodist Women, which is a co-convener of the Women & Global Migration Working Group, led off the “Holding Governments Accountable for Human Rights” workshop. She presented a platform, developed with input from hundreds of women around the world, detailing, “This is what women want.”

The platform points include:

  • Workers rights must be gender-sensitive with full and equal rights for women both in paid and unpaid care work, in origin and destination countries.
  • Migrant women, regardless of legal status, must have access to public health.
  • Gender-based violence must end.
  • Build bridges not walls: demilitarize borders.
  • Keep families together, recognize LGBT families, and ensure that women’s migration status is not dependent on a spouse.

The session also put together a list of upcoming commissions and conferences (e.g. Beijing +20 in 2015, the World Social Forum in Johannesburg in 2014) and celebratory days (e.g. March 8-International Women’s Day, December 12-Migrant’s Day) that can be connected to advocacy activities.

Universal issues

The session then moved into breakout groups. Recognizing that some migrant women’s issues are location-specific, Carol asked the groups to come up with issues that are universal to all women.

Judy Kading, a long-term Volunteer in Mission in Iowa and a 14-year volunteer with Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors, told how criminalization of migrants is not just a U.S. but a worldwide problem.

United Methodist Women member Rachel Bachenberg traveled from Kansas City to participate. As a registered nurse in Kansas City, Rachel has witnessed the health care challenges of migrants and has become sensitized to global women’s issues. She says there is a “U.N. of migrants” from Burma, Sudan, Cambodia, Laos, Somalia and the Hmong people that have come to Kansas City. She treats high-risk migrant moms on a daily basis.

As the Social Action Coordinator of the Missouri Conference, she participated in the “Hands that Heal” training in 2009, which propelled her to join the Human Trafficking Team.

A number of United Methodist Women attendees are on the UMW Human Trafficking Team, and they took part in the “Smuggling & Trafficking: Rights, Wrongs & Intersections” workshop that differentiated between smuggling (a crime against the state) and trafficking (which can be internal, and is a crime against the individual).

United Methodist Women participant Susie Johnson, head of the Washington Office of Public policy and lead of the Human Trafficking Initiative, emphasized that throughout its 140-plus year history, United Methodist Women always finds a way to be responsive to issues that impair women’s abilities to live as whole persons.

A rally for immigrant rights

Following a full day of workshops, United Methodist Women, along with all the other PGA participants, rallied in lower Manhattan, surrounded by the court buildings at Foley Square.

Activists from the local host organizations amassed behind their banners. United Methodist Women carried purple signs that read, “Because We Believe … We Act For Immigrant Rights,” and other signs that read, “UMC support Immigrant … Civil … Human … Rights!” With their sentiments proudly on view, the rally proceeded to march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last Updated: 03/24/2014
 
 

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