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Rediff.com  » News » Remittances have empowered the 'Gulf wife'

Remittances have empowered the 'Gulf wife'

Last updated on: September 06, 2006 23:15 IST

The latest United Nations Population Fund report cites the example of a Kerala homemaker to highlight the challenges and opportunities that international migration brings to the lives of young people.

'Moving Young' a special companion volume to the 2006 report exploring the topic of migration through the words of migrant youth, gives a firsthand account of the life of Rajini, a 24-year-old resident of Kotakkal, who was married to one Unnikrishnan who works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The 'Gulf Wife' as women whose husbands work in the Gulf are called, has been living apart from her husband since their marriage in 2000, but has been receiving money regularly from her husband.

Despite her loneliness and emotional disturbances, Rajini takes great pride in the fact that the remittances have empowered women like her to manage their households and invest in education and health of their children.

"The fact that I was able to oversee the construction (of a house), handle the workmen, and manage huge amounts of money, have given me the confidence that I can cope with any situation," Rajini, who is among 10 young people from different countries to be interviewed, was quoted as saying in the report.

The main UNFPA report 'A Passage to Hope: Women and International Migration' notes that migration can transform traditional private and public roles of men and women, although the relationship between migration and gender equality is complex.

"In Kerala, for example, women who stayed behind reported that remittances from their husbands in the Gulf states raised their authority and status -- 70 per cent had opened their bank accounts, 40 per cent had their own income, and half held land or homes in their own names," it said.

The report notes, however, that when remittances are meager or dry up altogether, women compensate for lost income usually through paid work or the establishment of a small business.

"Despite additional stress and responsibility, this too, can lead to greater autonomy and status," it said.

The report said that the lives of the 10 people interviewed by UNFPA show that even in most adverse and risky situation, young people have an extraordinary resilience and ability to cope.

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York