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nuevas TRENZAS informs

Marz0 2013 N° 8

Young Rural Women and Migration in Colombia María Alejandra Arias, Ana María Ibáñez, Ximena Peña Nuevas Trenzas Colombia Universidad de los Andes In Colombia, a tendency to urban-rural migration among young women has been registered. Migration is adopted by young rural women as a strategy for mitigating vulnerability and poverty levels that women in rural areas face. This document studies how migration affects young rural women’s decisions regarding their marital status, the number of children they will have, the use of birth control and the power negotiation in the household. There are 1,700,000 young rural Colombian women, and they represent 4 percent of the national population. Of them, 25 percent are between 14 and 17 years old, 40 percent are between 18 and 25 years old and the remaining 35 percent are between 26 and 35 years old. When comparing poverty levels, we find that young rural women are more vulnerable to poverty than the rest of the population. More than half of young rural women live in households considered poor. Therefore, migration arises as a strategy for mitigating vulnerability and poverty that young rural women face. The decision to migrate, however, generates significant impact on the structure of the population both in rural and urban areas as well as on the family structure and on the balance of power within the household. Migration among young Colombian rural women Vulnerability faced by young rural women in rural areas encourages migration to urban areas. Two specific causes have been identified for this migration: studying and finding work. It is difficult for both rural men and women to get into university because of two reasons: the poor quality of education in rural schools and the concentration of universities in urban areas. Given the little offer of higher education near rural areas, a significant number of young rural women migrate with the hope of pursuing higher education. On the other hand, women migrate to the city for escaping the gender division that exists in rural areas and for finding better economic opportunities. In rural areas inequality regarding income is related to the type of economic activity. Women claim that for one of their workdays in an activity not related to land, they receive less money than men who work in the fields. Therefore, rural women not only migrate in the search for new education alternatives but also for working and generating more income than they would in rural areas. Even if migration is scary for them due to the sort treatment they may receive from city dwellers, a higher cost of living and having to face new situations, young rural women are also curious and interested in knowing other realities. Their will to migrate is explained by a desire for a change of life, freedom and independence.

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Marital Status, Birth Control and Power of Negotiation in the Home Regarding marital status, it has been pointed out that young rural women are in general more prone to co-habit with their partners than to remain single. The study’s outcomes show that while 41.4 percent of urban women are married or co-habit with their partners, among rural women this percentage reaches 56.8. In contrast, the percentage of single urban women exceeds in 11.9 percent the quantity of single rural women. This may be the result of the lower level of education rural women have in comparison to urban women. In the measure that they are less educated, their economic opportunities are reduced, encouraging like so the formation of a home and economic dependency on their partners. On the other hand, urban and rural women do not only differentiate from each other because of their marital status, they also differ in the decision of having children and how many. In all age groups, young rural women have, in average, more children than their urban peers. Among women between 14 and 17 years of age, the difference is negligible. Among the eldest, i.e. women between 25 and 36 years old, the difference is substantial: on average, urban women between 36 and 49 years old have 2.7 children, while rural women have 4. The results show that being a migrant woman reduces the probability of having children in 13.6 percent, while being an older migrant woman increases the possibility in 11.2 percent. This difference between young and older rural women might be explained by two key factors: the importance that new generations give education and the use of modern birth control methods. New generations place education as one of their priorities. Young contemporary rural women consider education of great importance for “moving forward, being someone in life and gaining independence”. Young migrant women use more birth control and have less probabilities of having children than their rural peers; while older women do not use more birth control and have more probabilities of having children. Apart from decisions related to their marital status, the number of children and the use of birth control, it is important to analyze that if when rural women migrate, their negotiation power in the household improves. In order to do so, six types of decisions made in households are evaluated. A woman has power of negotiation if she has the last word concerning these decisions. The decisions contemplated in this study are the following: when to go to the doctor, how to spend the money, when to visit family, regarding expenses in foodstuff, everyday shopping and big purchases. It has been found that in comparison to women who do not migrate, women who do loose power of negotiation for deciding about everyday meals, everyday shopping, big purchases and when to visit family; while their power of negotiation regarding when to go to the doctor increases. It is possible that the effect on women’s power of negotiation in the household depends on the moment that they get married. Among migrant women, one finds that those who got married before migrating lose their power of negotiation when compared to those who decided to keep living in rural areas. Therefore, the former lose power of negotiation regarding everyday shopping, big purchases and family visits. Also, one finds that their power of negotiation increases in relation to decisions regarding medical visits (43.6 percentage point), how money is spent (34.8 percentage point) and regarding the global power of negotiation (40.3 percentage point). Regarding the effects of migrations, when comparing only migrant women who married after migrating with women who did not migrate, one finds that the former lose power of negotiation in the household. Conclusion Rural Colombian Women migrate to cities as a strategy for mitigating vulnerability and poverty faced in rural areas. This generates more empowerment among young rural women in different fields: marital status, the decision of having children, using birth control and position of negotiation in the household. Also, the effect of migration over these variables is different between young migrating women and those over 35 years of age.

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Young migrant women, in comparison to those who remain in rural areas, have greater preference for getting married or co-habiting with their partners than remaining single. It is interesting to point out that this result is only true for young rural women and not for those over 35 years of age. When the sample is narrowed down to those who are married or co-habit with their partners, one finds that young women who migrate highly prefer free union than marriage. Again, this is only true for women between 14 and 35 years of age. Similarly, regarding the decision to have children, one finds an effect on young women but not among older women. In comparison to rural women who do not migrate, young women who do have are less probable to have children. Meanwhile, for women over 35 years of age, migrating increases their probability of having children. However, when analyzing the number of kids, it is observed that for young women being migrant increases they average number of children they have; while among older women there is no significant effect. The fact that young migrant women’s probability of having children is lower than that of non migrant women, but that the number of children is higher might reflect a change of mentality among women who migrate. Finally, the study’s results show that migrating does not guarantee that their power of negotiation in the household will improve. Among older women, the only effect found is that when migrating, their opinion loses weight regarding when to visit family. When discriminating among women who got married prior and after migrating, one finds that in the former group, women improve their power of negotiation regarding some decisions and lose power of negotiation regarding others. In the second case, women lose power of negotiation in relation to decisions regarding everyday meals, how to expend money and everyday shopping; while older women lose power of negotiation regarding foodstuff. It may be inferred that older women always lose power of negotiation regardless if they got married before or after migrating. Regarding younger women who got married before migrating, it is not clear if they lose or gain power of negotiation in the household; however when they get married after changing their place of residency it is observed that they lose power of negotiation.

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Brief: Young Rural Women and Migration in Colombia  
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