Researching African Migration and Gender: the IMMIS Project

Researching African Migration and Gender: the IMMIS Project

The IMMIS project “African Migration and Gender in Global Context – Implementing Migration Studies” is supported by the EDULINK Programme, an ACP-EU cooperation programme in the area of higher education. IMMIS is a joint curriculum development and research project by Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda, Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman, Sudan and the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

The fundamental ambition of the IMMIS project is “to strengthen the (East) African voice in migration and gender research”. Ultimately, the research activities carried out within the project are intended to translate into “contributions to policy development on the national and regional level”, resulting in improved migration policies and a better situation for refugees and migrants.

The project’s focus is primarily on forced migration, whether internal or international, due to the importance of the phenomenon in eastern Africa generally, and in Sudan and Uganda specifically. The strong focus on gender issues is a distinctive feature of the IMMIS project. Migration and displacement are gendered processes and the analysis of these movements -including their determinants, characteristics and impacts - needs to take into account gender structures and inequalities. Gender-based violence suffered by forcibly displaced women is a central concern. Women also have specific health needs, particularly in terms of reproductive health. Migration and gender studies are therefore considered as closely interlinked areas within the IMMIS project.

Creating an African-European Master programme in migration studies: EMMIR

A core objective of the project is to promote the development of graduate curricula in the participating African universities, as well as the establishment of an African-European Master in migration studies. This 2-year programme called EMMIR “European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations” will welcome its first cohort of students in September 2011. The specificity of EMMIR is its intercultural approach to migration. The EMMIR consortium composition reflects the idea of an integrated African-European study programme, associating African and European universities and offering study periods in both Africa and Europe. EMMIR is offering Erasmus Mundus scholarships but is also open to self-paying students. The application process for the second cohort will begin in September 2011.

Promoting collaborative research

The promotion of collaborative research through the IMMIS project goes beyond curriculum development, encompassing fellowships, faculty exchanges, conferences, publications, and the improvement of academic infrastructure. IMMIS partners identified and acquired key publications in the field and developed the thematically and geographically systemised "Reference Library African Migration and Gender in Global Context". It has been available online since June 2010 and provides researchers associated to the project with the possibility to easily search the database.

Equally important are the IMMIS international conferences. Ahfad University for Women  recently hosted the 3rd such conference on “Migration, Gender and Diversity in Eastern Africa” (4-6 May 2011), a follow-up to 1st and 2nd editions, held in Germany in September 2009 and Uganda in July 2010. The three events brought together migration researchers from Africa, Europe, India and the US on junior and senior levels representing various disciplines. "The conferences focused mainly on the development of theoretical approaches to African migration, including gender dimensions, and the synthetisation of existing but disparate knowledge on African migration processes", says IMMIS and EMMIR Programme Coordinator, Dr. Lydia Potts from the University of Oldenburg, Germany; "They contributed a lot to the visibility and outreach of IMMIS.”