Transnational Family Networks in the Somali Diaspora in Egypt: Women’s Roles and Differentiated Experiences

Citation:

Al-Sharmani, Mulki. 2010. “Transnational Family Networks in the Somali Diaspora in Egypt: Women’s Roles and Differentiated Experiences.” Gender, Place & Culture 17 (4): 499–518. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2010.485843.

Author: Mulki Al-Sharmani

Abstract:

Diasporic Somalis are increasingly leading a transnational life in which family members are sustained through networks of relations, obligations and resources that are located in different nation-states. These networks and relations enable diasporic Somalis to seek safety for themselves and their relatives, minimize risks and maximize family resources. In this article, I examine three key dimensions of such a way of life, namely: migration; remittances; and transnational family care. I focus on the roles that women play in this family-based support system. For instance, women move and facilitate the movement of other family members; they remit to family members; and they provide care for children and sick relatives. But these transnational households are not free from tensions. Family members are placed in hierarchical relations shaped by age; parental authority; possession of western citizenship; financial resources; and bonds of familial reciprocity and gratitude. Women gain appreciation from relatives and a sense of self-respect for their new roles. Some of the women also make use of the family network to arrange for the care of their children and sick relatives, while they engage in transnational trading activities. However, young and single female relatives often sacrifice or delay their individual dreams because of their familial obligations. I conclude that transnationalism – as a way of organizing and sustaining livelihood, resources and relations of Somali families – is not always emancipating or marginalizing for Somali women. Rather the benefits and challenges of such a way of life for women are different, mixed and uneven.

Keywords: diaspora, transnationalism, gender, refugee families

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households Regions: Africa, East Africa, North Africa Countries: Egypt, Somalia

Year: 2010

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.