Migration as a window to empowerment: Nepalese women's experiences in South Korea

Publication date

01 Aug 2019

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Migrant women are often described as victims of the global economy: accounts of human rights abuses and economic exploitation have eclipsed more positive accounts of the impact of migrant work on women’s lives. Some migrant women are positioned to make use of new opportunities which they see as empowering, in contrast to earlier experiences in their homes or sending countries. This study, based on qualitative interviews with 13 young Nepalese women working in manufacturing and agricultural sectors with Employment Permits in South Korea, highlights a rather positive window of women’s empowerment. It shares the perspectives of young, mostly single women who gain self-confidence through their new ability to take care of their family (some becoming primary breadwinners). The women are also able to plan for their economic futures, and report their voices being heard more in important family decision-making. These material, relational, and perceptual improvements are all important dimensions of empowerment. In these experiences, gender intersects with age and other factors to produce a nuanced view of specific young women’s experience of migrant work.