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Gender, Migration and Illiteracy. Policy and Practice for Social Integration.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GEMILLI (Gender, Migration and Illiteracy. Policy and Practice for Social Integration.)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2021-04-01 do 2023-03-31

GEMILLI project aims to analyse the intersections of gender, migration and illiteracy in contemporary European societies.
Adults’ absolute illiteracy is somewhat an invisible phenomenon. Gender is a structuring dimension of illiteracy, with women representing most of the the world’s illiterate population. This disproportion lies in social constructions that give men and women different attributions, associated with distinct expectations and investments in education during childhood and reproduced in adult life. The migration experience activates different types of illiteracies, not only by disrupting the educational paths of a significant number of individuals, but also by imposing new learnings.
In Europe, the last decades have shown changing trends in migration fluxes and in the gender and education composition of the migrant population: women have a more balanced presence in today’s international migration, with a wide range of motivations to migrate; and some evidence supports the increasing influxes of migrants from countries with high illiteracy rates. However, the debate on the intersections of gender, migration, illiteracy and its implications for integration is still scarce. The existing knowledge is mostly dispersed and fragmented, and a comprehensive and integrated analytical framework is still lacking.
The main objectives of the research are to analyse a) the main country-differences regarding the social integration of migrant women with low literacy levels; b) the nature, characteristics and functioning of the local organisations working directly with migrant women with low literacy levels and in charge of training, alphabetisation, language learning, and social integration actions; c) the impacts of the intersections of gender, migration and illiteracy for the life trajectories of women.
The project started with the analysis its institutional context. This included the analysis of policy documents addressing gender, migration and illiteracy in Europe, and the analysis of key migrant integration indicators, considering gender and illiteracy. The analysis was supported by policy documents provided by European and national institutions and comparative statistical data provided by Eurostat.
The results of the institutional analysis showed a still lacking policy frame able to integrate the intersections of gender, migration and illiteracy, and to provide adequate policy responses to the integration of low literate migrant women. Public policies in the areas of gender equality, migrants’ integration and adults’ education tend to be designed independently and most of the proposed actions do not target this populational group. Some progress has been made in European policy to develop an intersectional approach in public policy responses. This is visible in the current Gender Equality Strategy, although in a mainly discursive level. The migrants’ integration and adults’ education policy instruments analysed largely treat target groups as homogenous. The analysis of the extant indicators confirmed the initial hypothesis of a slight increase in the proportion of migrants in Europe without formal schooling in the last decade, with notable gender differences. However, the examination of the data highlighted sampling weaknesses that prevent robust conclusions, thus reinforcing the need for more comparative disaggregated data.
The second phase of the research consisted of two organisational case studies in local institutions offering literacy courses for beneficiaries from different countries of origin. The case studies were done in Spain and in France. The studies included the analysis of the general functioning of their literacy programmes, their methodologies and formal procedures, as well as the available resources and main challenges encountered in developing such actions. The research methodology consisted of documental analysis of internal documents; the systematic observation of practice (participant observation); and semi-structured interviews with fieldwork professionals.
The results of the organizational analysis illustrated the impact of the national and regional contexts in the shaping of local practices. The French organization presented a higher level of institutionalization of practices, largely due to its long work experience with adults’ absolute illiteracy and variety of funding resources, which facilitates articulation with other institutions of formal education and with the labour market. In the Spanish case, the institutionalization was lower, and the connection with other educational entities and with the labour market was scarce. However, in turn, the lower institutionalization enables a more individualized monitoring of the learning processes. In any case, the analysis confirmed the wide diversity of configurations of literacy programmes in both countries, and the ways in which they incorporate both national policies and migrants’ individual needs in their work.
The final stage of the research consisted in the analysis of biographies of women with low literacy. Participants were migrant women without or with low levels of formal education, from different countries, with a wide range of ages.
The results of the individual analysis showed little variation in the socio-economic background of these women and in the reasons that prevented them from accessing formal education, but a great variety of life trajectories, motivations to learn, and learning experiences.
The results pinpoint the missing intersectional approach in the existing European policies on gender, migrants’ integration and adults’ education, and the need for more robust statistics on the extension of adults’ absolute illiteracy in Europe, namely by gender and migrant status. Therefore, it claims for a throughout discussion on how to collect and integrate accurate, comparative, and longitudinal statistical indicators in existing databases, and how to use them to inform a truly intersectional approach in public policies.
By considering the variety of education contexts in which literacy learning can occur, the research highlights the importance of the institutional settings in shaping the learning experience and the outcomes of the literacy programmes for the beneficiaries and for the community. Adults’ literacy learning is a paradigmatic expression of non-formal education that usually takes place at the community level. However, the degrees of institutionalization and connection with the formal educational system, or with the labour market, are determined by the governmental, regional, and organizational framework in which it occurs.
Contemplating the individual trajectories and lived experiences of migrant women in the process of literacy acquisition also allowed an in-depth discussion about the empowering views of adults’ education in contemporary societies. The ability of writing and reading is undoubtedly linked with higher levels of migrant women’s’ participation in the public sphere, inclusion, and with processes of identity’s (re)definition with symbolic and material manifestations. Nevertheless, far from being straightforward, the learning process often involves the acknowledgment of vulnerabilities that may result in significant disempowerment, quitting, and further exclusion. The research results underline the need to debate the ways by which the learning processes can be improved to avoid reinforcing vulnerabilities.
Project's poster