Is the Feminization of International Migration Really on the Rise? The Case of Flows from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal

By Sophie Vause, Sorana Toma

Previous research, mostly focused on Asian and Latin American contexts, found that women are increasingly present in international migration flows, especially as independent economic actors. This article examines the extent to which these two trends can be observed in the African context. It uses data collected as part of the Migration between Africa and Europe (MAFE) project in Senegal, DR Congo and several European countries. Discrete-time event-history analysis reveals only moderate increases in the likelihood of female migration over time, especially towards Western destinations, but no decline in gender gaps. The collection of rich retrospective information from both current and return migrants allows a more in-depth investigation of the nature of women’s moves. Several indicators can be used to examine the extent to which women move autonomously or in association to their partner. While some evidence of a rise in autonomous female migration was found among the Congolese, no salient change was visible in Senegal. The findings were interpreted in light of the more rigid patriarchal system and traditional gender norms that characterize Senegal in comparison to DR Congo.


  • feminization
  • gender
  • international migration flows
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • autonomous female migration
  • Congo
  • Senegal
  • Europe
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