IOM Promotes Safety, Empowerment of Migrant Women and Girls at EU Development Event

A migrant girl at an IOM transit center in Niger. Photo: Amanda Nero / IOM 2016

A Syrian refugee girl crossing the Serbian-Croatian border. Photo: Francesco Malavolta / IOM 2015

A migrant girl on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo: Amanda Nero / IOM 2015

Myriam, a Cote d Ivoire reutrnee from Libya. Photo: IOM

Brussels – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is drawing attention to the realities facing women and girls on the move and how to unlock their untapped potential at this year’s “European Development Days” (EDD) events taking place in Brussels, 5-6 June.

IOM Deputy Director General Laura Thompson will headline the Organization’s participation at the two-day forum on Wednesday’s (06-06) high-level panel focusing on safer work and migration for women and girls. 

The panel caps a series of debates and workshops with IOM involvement at the EDD engaging the theme of women and girl migration and their intersection with the realities of human trafficking, return and reintegration, displacement and development. 

“We all must think about the potential of women and girls that is lost if they are not free from violence, abuse and exploitation. They lose out on being able to live the life they want to live, of being able to achieve what is important for them and their families. But we all lose out in terms of what they might be able to contribute to our communities, to our countries, and to humanity as a whole,” said Ambassador Thompson ahead of the event.

Ambassador Thompson and panelists at the high-level event – “Women and girls on the Move: Towards Safer Work and Migration for Women” – are set to discuss how safe, orderly and regular migration can mitigate vulnerabilities and allow women to develop new skills, flourish as entrepreneurs, and contribute more to the growth of their host and home countries.

On the High-level Panel, Ambassador Thompson will join Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator; Isatou Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment of the Republic of the Gambia; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director; Audrey Le Guével, Director of the Brussels office, ILO; and Esther Nakajjigo, EDD Youth Representative from Uganda. Discussions will be moderated by Ambassador Thomas Gass, Assistant Director General of the SDC.

The panel is co-organized by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), IOM, UN Women, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform (ADEPT), and the Migrant Forum in Asia. 

At the EDD, IOM is also co-organizing or participating in a series of thematic debate and brainstorming events.

Today, (05-06) IOM, the European Commission, and the International Trade Centre are holding a special debate titled Women on The Move: Stories of Resilience and Reintegration. The session will feature stories and discussion centering on the strength and resourcefulness of women who have returned and are contributing to their home countries and communities in Africa under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migration Protection and Reintegration.

Taking part in the debate are Idrissa Sompare, programme manager (IOM Guinea), Guglielmo Schinina, Head Mental Health, Psychosocial Response and Intercultural Communication (IOM), Didier Versé, Head of Unit European Commission’s DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), and Fatou Mbenga Jallow, project coordinator, Youth Empowerment Project Gambia. 

The stories and perspectives of two IOM beneficiaries, Aline from Guinea and Deborah from Nigeria, who were not able to receive their travel visas on time to make it for the event, will be shown by video.

Also happening today: Understanding and preventing trafficking of women and girls. Recommendations from the ACP context and beyond, a brainstorming lab organized by IOM and LUMOS to shed light on the nexus between gender, age and trafficking in human beings. The aim will be to better understand the many factors and underlying mechanisms that render women and girls vulnerable to exploitation, and how we can prevent trafficking of these groups and empower women and girls. The lab will feature Lori Mann, IOM’s ACP-EU Migration Action trafficking in human beings expert, Chissey Mueller, Migrant Assistance Specialist (IOM), and Irina Papancheva, EU Advocacy Manager (LUMOS).

Another roundtable, Girls on the Move – Protecting Girls in Migration and Displacement organized by Save the Children in partnership with IOM and the Danish Refugee Council, is taking place today with keynote speakers keynote speakers include Stefano Signore, Head of Migration and Employment at the European Commission (DEVCO), Kathrine Starup, Global Specialist Lead on Protection (Danish Refugee Council), Irina Todorova, Senior Regional Migrant Protection and Assistance Specialist (IOM), Natalia Alonso, Senior Policy & Advocacy Advisor (UNICEF), and Hannah Newth, Child Protection Advisor for Children on the Move (Save the Children).

IOM also will participate as co-organizer of the United Nation's Action Hub Stand which is highlighting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Spotlight initiative’s campaign to end violence against women and girls.

The EDD is the EU’s flagship development event, and this year marks its 12th edition. The annual forum has attracted 42,000 participants – including 7 Nobel Prize laureates and 100 world leaders – from over 154 countries, representing 4,500 organizations in the fields of development cooperation, human rights and humanitarian aid since 2006.

For more information on the High-Level Migration Panel, please visit:

For more information, please contact Annika Lenz, Email:; Tel. +32 2 287 7126, or Ryan Schroeder, Email:, Tel. +32 2 287 7116 at IOM’s Regional Office for the EU in Brussels