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Should I stay or should I go?: Ghanian migrant women’s dilemma and the role of social media

By Eyram Ivy Sedzro | OMC 2024

Social media as a double-edged sword.

The migration of African women to the Gulf countries and their lived experiences as domestic workers has emerged as a highly debated form of contemporary human slavery. While the underlying causes have been extensively explored, social media usage is an emerging component that contributes to the dynamics involved in women's migration to the Gulf countries. The rise in popularity of social media in recent years has made it an almost unavoidable aspect of women's personal and social lives. Women's use of these platforms has been facilitated by the easy accessibility to mobile devices such as smartphones and the quick download of applications over time. The use of Facebook, TikTok and WhatsApp have become spaces where women easily connect and exchange information, but it also presents a range of challenges that can significantly impact migratory decision-making. Within the Ghanaian context, social media plays a crucial role in women’s perceived risk associated with migration to the Gulf countries and hence contributes to decision-making in the long run.

The decision dilemma 

The use of social media in migratory decision-making processes has often posed a quandary, wherein women find themselves in indecisive positions. On the one hand, women are captivated by the inspiring success stories of some returnees, while on the other hand, they are confronted with the daunting risks faced by other women involved in the migration process – some of which are sometimes posted online. Aspiring Ghanaian female migrants are often inundated with social media posts featuring other migrant women who actively use these platforms to publicise their success stories and transformative life experiences that result from migrating to the Gulf countries. These posts demonstrate their upward mobility and the societal validation they ultimately receive, and have largely been the primary incentive for local women to migrate. For these women, success stories mostly involve a wide range of achievements, from owning a dressmaking shop to engaging in petty trading or building a house and paying off debt. While these narratives of migrants may excite local women, their ability to weigh both success stories and the risks of migrating often incites an emotional conflict, posing a conundrum regarding the nature of the migration itself and the expected outcome. 

Contrary to the idealised depiction of Ghanaian female migrants on social media, images of abused or trafficked female labour migrants have become one of the most prevalent representations of female migration to the Gulf countries. Videos or posts featuring women who have experienced various forms of exploitation and harassment have evoked anxiety or dampened the aspirations of most women seeking better opportunities, while adding to the uncertainty associated with these forms of migration. Thus, as women become more cognisant of the distressing mistreatment endured by domestic workers or nannies, which often includes physical and sexual abuse, as well as tragic incidents leading to permanent disability or death, they are compelled to reconcile these significant risks with the success stories observed on social media platforms.

Interestingly, migration to the Gulf countries for Ghanaian women entails several processes, which also include using information access via social media to evaluate the prospect of attaining desired goals. The use of these platforms in migratory decision-making processes typically involves weighing the associated risk vis-à-vis success stories they are exposed to. In doing so, migrant women often encounter a dilemma when navigating migration choices, as they are exposed to a diverse array of experiences shared by fellow migrants on social media platforms. Thus, although these platforms can offer valuable insights, they can also present a skewed perception of reality. The juxtaposition of these opposing narratives often leaves migrant women feeling conflicted and indecisive about what path to choose.  Essentially, the usage of social media by female migrants in the Ghana-Gulf migration presents a dilemma in determining which information to trust: the purported benefits or the potential risks associated with the migration process. This dilemmatic position can become complex and frustrating, particularly for women who take into account their limited options for social and economic well-being.

Ms. Sedzro Eyram Ivy is a graduate researcher with the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Melbourne. Her current project examines Ghanaian female domestic and care workers' risk perception as one of the Gulf's most marginalised, devalued, and least protected working sectors. Prior to her doctoral thesis, she worked across different thematic areas such as skilled and unskilled labour migration, policy development and analysis, transnational connections, gender and community development, financial management skills, and risk management. Ms. Sedzro draws upon her extensive work experiences and deep research interests to create inclusive spaces that promote empowerment, social impact, and effective communication about sustainability risks.


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