Gender and Migration: Education, Family and Social Mobility among Caribbean Nurses

Contact person: Professor Karen Fog Olwig

During the past decades there has been increasing awareness that women not only migrate as dependents to join husbands or fathers abroad, but play a central role as migrants in their own right. So far, much of the literature has focused on migrant women who are engaged in domestic work or care work, predominant forms of employment among unskilled migrant women. Furthermore, studies have examined the problems of gender and racial discrimination associated with this type of work.

This research project focuses on women who migrate for the purpose of further education. More specifically, it looks at Caribbean women who migrated to Britain during the 1950’s, 1960s and 1970’s in order to receive training in nursing. Migration for training in nursing has offered women in the developing world an economically accessible means of qualifying for a profession. With its focus on “educational migration,” the project aims to shed light on a form of physical, social and personal mobility that is poorly documented and understood, but which has an increasing impact on migration processes, not only in the Caribbean, but also more broadly speaking. Thus, it explores the role of this of migration as a gender specific strategy that women may adopt in order to fulfill family and community obligations, pursue social mobility, and assert their own personhood and agency.

Fieldwork is based on open-ended life story interviews with: 1) nurses who have stayed in Britain, 2) nurses who returned to undertake a career in the Caribbean when they had received their credentials, and 3) nurses who have spent most of their lives in Britain, but who have moved back to the Caribbean upon their retirement.

The research project is supported by the Carlsberg Foundation and Aksel Tovborg Jensens legat.

The project is linke to the project Education, Mobility and Citizenship