Media reports on abuse and harassment of migrant women workers do not reflect the real scenario and may actually discourage aspirants, speakers at a seminar said.
At the seminar on Saturday titled Media Representation of Women Migrant Workers: A Critical Look jointly organised by the Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF), Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), and the Drishti Research Centre (DRC), speakers said such reporting undermined the rest of women migrants and resulted in their families facing social harassment.
Economist Nazneen Ahmed, the keynote speaker at the event, said negative news reporting regarding female migration dominated the Bangladeshi media.
Referring to the research undertaken by RAPID and DRC as part of the Work in Freedom Project of ILO, Nazneen, who led the study, said that while journalists chose to report on the issues for the wellbeing of the migrant workers, sometimes those become harmful.
The research studied migration-related news published in widely circulated national dailies and reports aired on television channels.
The study found 496 migration-related news articles published from 2015 to 2021 in four newspapers. Of those, 147 articles focused on women, of which 21 were positive, 99 negative, and 26 highlighted both positive and negative aspects.
The research scrutinised how overseas female migrants are characterised and stereotyped in print and electronic media and how they are characterised by gender, class, and geographical origin.
It was complemented by interviews of senior journalists and activists while relevant secondary data, research studies, and regulations were also consulted.
Dr MA Razzaque, chairman, RAPID and director of PRI, said, rights and development organisations should raise their voice in those countries where women migrants were abused.
He said as a manpower exporting country, Bangladesh needs to take a medium- to long-term policy for women migration.
In the future, women migration will be higher from its current 36%, he added.
Shafiqul Alam, bureau chief of AFP of Bangladesh, noted that click-bait titles should be avoided when reporting on migrant workers.
Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment attended the event as the chief guest while special guest was Igor Bosc, chief technical adviser, Work in Freedom, ILO.
S M Rashidul Islam, general secretary of ERF, moderated the programme chaired by Sharmeen Rinvy, president of ERF.
Madame Therese Blanchet, special anthropologist, delivered the introductory remarks and Dr M Abu Eusuf, professor, Dhaka University and executive director of RAPID made the welcome remarks.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), more than 10 lakh women migrated to different countries, including the Middle East, from 1991 to January 2022.
Saudi Arabia is the top destination where 4.13 lakh Bangladeshi females are employed.
Around one lakh women migrated to different countries in 2019 alone. But, the number of female migrants dropped to only 21,000 in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, last year, around 80,143 female Bangladeshi were employed abroad.