Women who migrate within national borders in Africa have been largely ignored in contemporary conversations about migration. This is partly due to the fact that internal migration, and in particular, rural–urban migration, has been viewed in a negative light in development theory and praxis. This leads to the perception that women who migrate within national borders are worse-off than they would have been otherwise and to a policy stance that seeks to discourage their migration. Drawing on field research in Ghana, I argue that while rural–urban migration gives women access to an independent source of income, the emancipatory potential of migration for women is limited by the official stance towards rural–urban migration and informality. Nevertheless, the decision by women to migrate represents an attempt to improve their life outcomes as well as those of their families, in the face of severely constrained options for doing so. Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5)—promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment—requires a different approach to women’s internal migration. Rather than seeking to constrain women’s mobility, policy and program interventions should be geared towards expanding women’s freedom to choose whether or not to migrate—by expanding the options available to women who stay at home as well as improving migration outcomes for those who migrate.
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