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Women's experiences with migration in Nicaragua : connections between globalization and local health



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Economic globalization is characterized by increased liberalization, privatization and deregulation of national economies, principally imposed via the International Monetary Fund’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs and poverty reduction strategies. The rationale for these strategies includes reducing the inflation rate, generating income to service debt payments, and increasing growth to combat poverty. Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been under structural adjustment and poverty reduction strategies since 1991. Forty-eight percent of the country is under the nationally defined poverty line. Under- and unemployment are a combined 60%. Migration is an oft-used survival strategy, with 7 out of 10 Nicaraguan migrants choosing to go to Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan Migration Network estimates a minimum 350,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica at any one time. Women bear a disproportional burden of the health inequalities that globalization- induced, employment-seeking migration causes. While there is already evidence showing that their health is negatively affected, there is no documentation in their own words of how they experience and understand these impacts. A qualitative study using interpretive description conducted 12 interviews and 2 participatory group activity sessions to explore how women understand their migration experiences and its health impacts. Results show structural and personal level causes and both beneficial and harmful effects. Explanations of causes include structural and cultural reasons. Migration affects women in particular ways due to gendered social and cultural roles within a polarized economic environment. It was difficult for participants to identify if the costs of migration were worth the benefits. A document analysis of structural adjustment agreements and poverty reduction strategy papers was also undertaken. Results show consistent limitations on the Nicaraguan government’s social spending budget, increased privatization and liberalization requirements, and specific amounts for debt service payments. The country’s currency is regularly devalued and there are limits on tariff barriers. In conclusion, it is clear that women are absorbing the cost of SAPs and PRSs at the household level and that migration is negatively affecting their health.



globalization, migration, women's health, gender, culture, Nicaragua



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community Health and Epidemiology


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