Young Venezuelan migrant women: aspirations, opportunities and challenges
Dijk, L.B. van
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As mass migration from Venezuela sweeps across Latin America, Colombia has absorbed a vast share of the exodus, where 1.3 million Venezuelans aim establish their livelihoods. This study sets out to explore what it means to start a new life as a young Venezuelan woman in Bogotá, Colombia. Research regarding the influx of Venezuelan migrants towards Colombia has been very limited in scope due to its recency. Furthermore, though many theories focus on integration and livelihood approaches, few focus specifically on women and even less on young women. Therefore, this study can be considered as important for analysis of current migration trajectories with this narrow focus. Particularly, the aspirations and incentives for migration and the concepts of livelihood assets, strategies and outcomes are used to explore how the recently migrated young women build up their lives in an urban context along the lines of transforming structures and processes. Part of the aim of this project is to explore the concept of gender and the transition to adulthood affecting how one builds a livelihood. Methodologically, this study centred on the perceptions of the participating young Venezuelan migrant women. The conversations took the form of semi-structured interviews where a deeper focus was reached through a social mapping technique and by writing down a timeline of experiences in Bogotá, allowing the women to express their perceptions, behaviours and feelings. Furthermore, institutional practice observations and interviews with high-level staff of various institutions were performed to gain an understanding of the institutional landscape in Bogotá. Taken together, several threads emerged. Though participants had different legal, economic and social statuses in Bogotá and come from a variety of backgrounds, all of them placed tremendous value on being able to find dignifying work. This seems to be something that is nearly impossible to accomplish due to xenophobic tensions, their legal status and accompanying risks of exploitation. Most young women in the study noted discrimination and feel vulnerable for the fact of being a Venezuelan migrant and because they are a (young) woman. Structural processes therefore limit the women’s agency in being able to build a sustainable livelihood. The findings from this study encourage policy practitioners to address the economic and social realities facing the young migrant women, by giving an insight in the daily realities these women face.