Accepted paper:

"Even though they beat us I pray for them": East African women's experiences of vulnerable migration situations in the Middle East as Christians


Leah Edwards (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents the research findings from anti-trafficking work in the Middle East with East African women. This work presents the importance of faith in female economic migrants integration. The women expressed their Christian identity created greater risk for exploitation in the region.

Paper long abstract:

This abstract is based on doctoral research conducted in the Middle East. The research methodology was grounded in ethnography and a case study approach where two American evangelical anti-trafficking organisations were observed as they worked with East African women. This paper reports on one emerging issue of the empirical findings. As increased attention is given to issues of trafficking and illegal migration understanding the construction of women's identities is needed to explore the intersection of faith, migration, and resilience. The fragile migration status of female economic migrants in the Middle East needs recognition as a complex reality resulting in few options for assistance. Broadly, the current literature presents the challenges encountered in migration and integration, yet knowledge is still needed in the context of the Middle East. The findings presented highlight the complexity of women's identities and how this influenced decision encountered during integration. The women identified their connection to faith-based networks, within their ethnic group and with the American anti-trafficking organisation, as a more favourable factor in securing domestic service employment and building a social network. This paper presents that faith is integral in women's decision making and in their capacity to survive extreme situations. Furthermore, the strong association with their faith identity as Christians appeared to increase their risk of vulnerability in the region. Finally, this work presents the importance of anti-trafficking organisations positively acknowledging migrant women's faith and the positive network connections that can be made in their migration projects.

panel A04
The role of faith identities and actors in combating modern slavery and human trafficking (Paper)