Research on Migrant Women's Access to Healthcare

Inflexible healthcare systems in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) often exclude people who are not living in their hometown, who do not have documentation, and/or who have not contributed to a healthcare scheme. Due to these exclusions and other factors, migrant women often lack access to healthcare and treatment, rendering them vulnerable in times of ill health. While all undocumented workers face similar hardships, it is particularly challenging for women who often face additional burdens and discrimination because of their gender. In order to provide evidence showcasing the vulnerability of migrant women on matters of health, and to jointly develop recommendations for policy reforms and changes in practices, MMN, along with research partners in six Mekong countries, jointly conducted research between 2014 and 2015 on this topic with support from the United Nations Development Programme.

MMN Project Partners

  • MAP Foundation, Thailand; 
  • EMPOWER Foundation, Thailand; 
  • Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia;
  • Yunnan Reproductive Health Institute, China; Women Galaxy, Myanmar;
  • Sex Workers in Myanmar (SWIM) Network, Myanmar; 
  • Centre for Research and Consultancy for Development (CRCD), Vietnam; 
  • National University of Laos, Lao PDR

Key Activities

Working collaboratively with project partners from all six countries in the GMS, MMN launched a collaborative study looking into how migrant women access healthcare. For the purpose of the study, MMN and project partners held two consultation meetings during the project period to collectively come up with the research design, analyse the results of collected data, and develop recommendations aimed at governments, non-governmental organisations, healthcare professionals, and ASEAN members. Project partners interviewed 70 women in destination countries, and 44 women in countries of origin after they returned home. Women from all six GMS countries were interviewed. 

On 27 May 2015, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, MMN launched a report entitled Self-Care & Health Care: How Migrant Women in the Greater Mekong Subregion Take Care of their HealthThe study found that migrant women’s vulnerability to sickness stems from various factors, including poor living conditions, unsafe and physically demanding work, poverty wages, and a precarious legal status. A lack of long-term healthcare policies for migrants, combined with poor enforcement of migrants’ labour rights, also poses significant barriers to a migrant women’s ability to stay healthy and access healthcare. Across the region there are gaps in healthcare for migrant women with the most pronounced unmet needs being in sexual, reproductive, and mental health services.