Kenyan migrant women are powerful agents of change who positively contribute to the Kenyan economy and their countries of transit and destination.
They bring diverse talent and expertise to the diaspora and send financial remittances to their families and communities back home. According to UN Women, 100 million migrant women send remittances annually – half of all remittance senders globally.
Remittances have a positive and well-documented development impact on developing countries across the globe. They are particularly helpful during times of national or global crises when private investments dry up and the value of local currencies depreciate.
The fact that migrant women account for half of the global remittance transactions highlights the important role they play in supporting their communities back home. Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that remittances to Kenya grew to record levels of $4.027 billion in 2022, surpassing earnings from tourism and tea.
Data from Zepz, the holding company for digital remittance service providers WorldRemit and Sendwave, shows that its users globally sent almost $2 billion to Kenya through its channels in 2022, with Kenya emerging as a leading recipient compared to other key markets. Zepz users have sent over $500 million to Zimbabwe, $300 million to Cameroon, and more than $190 million to South Africa during the period.
As we mark International Women’s Day this March, we need to recognize the positive contributions that Kenyan women in the diaspora make to their families, communities, and wider society. In addition to sending remittances, migrant women, especially those from Kenya, are an inspiration to many across the country – demonstrating their ability to create a positive impact on their families and friends back home.
Relocating abroad requires determination and resilience. Living in the diaspora is not just about working in a new job or going to a new school. One must also familiarize themselves with a new culture and social system – sometimes even a new language. Managing this kind of change is not easy. Kenyan women in the diaspora are inspiring an entire generation to challenge the limits of what is possible.
Although the positive contributions of migrant women to their families and communities are clear, women are often still being held back from reaching their full potential by several challenges. For example, a woman’s choice of whether or not to relocate abroad can be unfairly limited by cultural or social factors. Lack of financial inclusion or access to quality education can also limit the opportunities available to migrant women.
When sending money back home, women can also face challenges. According to UN Women migrant women are often sending money more frequently and therefore can often pay 20% more in transfer fees than men as they tend to send smaller amounts and rely on in-person cash transfers.
Pioneering digital remittance services like WorldRemit have leveled the playing field by offering affordable, secure, and convenient money transfer services for all senders. For receivers, payout options include mobile money, bank transfer, cash pick-up, and airtime top-up, ensuring that receivers access their funds conveniently.
The contributions of migrant women are inspiring and we need to continue working for a world where women can reach their full potential, regardless of the country they choose to settle in. We need to play our role in raising awareness about the challenges and opportunities women abroad face. We also need to celebrate the many inspiring success stories.
By Ivan Kanyali, Regional Manager, East Africa