African women have played a significant role in African international migration since the pre-colonial period. Traditionally, African women have migrated to other countries within the continent of Africa; Nigeria, Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa were major destinations. However, non-African countries have seen increases in African women's immigration for economic, educational, and employment opportunities. The World Health Organization (2018) reported, “African female migrants are diverse in range, encompassing: regular and irregular migrant flows; women migrating for marriage or for family reunification; women migrating for economic reasons to fill positions in both skilled and unskilled labour markets; refugees and asylum seekers; trafficked persons; persons in mixed migration flows; and traditional migrants such as nomads.” (p.4)
Many African women migrants’ roles and responsibilities have included becoming entrepreneurs (providing jobs, especially for other immigrants) and establishing community organizations to address immigrants' educational, personal, and professional issues. Reham Fagiri is a Sudanese native who has started an online marketplace company, AptDeco, to buy and sell furniture in the United States. She came to the United States as a sixteen-year-old college student, majoring in electrical engineering at the University of Maryland; Reham worked several years for Goldman Sachs. She started her business after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business with an MBA. Sauti Yetu is a New York City-based community organization for African immigrant women who need assistance in establishing their lives in the United States. “Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States.” (Maxouris, 2019, main page)
One of the various ways culture shapes patterns and dynamics of migration is through acculturation. Many immigrants adopt the cultural norms and values of their adopted countries. They may even embrace the religions, learn the native languages, marriage practices, and so on. However, first-generation immigrants may not assimilate in the adopted country’s society as much as their second- or third-generations. Another cultural dynamic is that many immigrants prefer to interact with others with the same or similar cultures; one reason is it's challenging to embrace an adopted country's individualistic culture if migrants are from collectivistic cultures. Gsir & Mescoli (2015) wrote, “A consequence could be that migrants themselves refer to distinct and unchangeable values and norms, as well as to the practices that derive from them, as a means to provide a reassuring shelter to the uncertainties and the difficulties lived in the migration context.” (p.10)
The global migration of African women has increased since the pre-colonial days of Africa. Many come from Africa’s most populous, English-speaking countries, and they represent a wide range of ethnicities, subcultures, educational background, and skillsets. African migrant women immigrant to other countries for various reasons, mainly for their economic opportunities or to escape civil unrest. Acculturation and assimilation have been challenges for some, while others could quickly adopt some (if not the majority) cultural norms and values of their newly adopted countries. It is vital that regardless of wherever African female emigrants originate, they should be given the equal opportunity to contribute to the respective adopted societies.
World Health Organization (2018). Women on the move: migration and health in the WHO African region. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/274378/9789290234128-eng.pdf
Maxouris, C. (2019, February 23). 10 incredible black women, you should know about. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/
Gsir, S. & Mescoli, E. (2015, October). Maintaining national culture abroad – Countries of origin, culture and diaspora, INTERACT RR 2015/10, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI): European University Institute Retrieved from https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/35881/INTERACT-RR-2015_10_Culture.pdf;sequence=1.