The Republic of Vanuatu Department of Labour and Employment Services, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and World Vision Vanuatu convened stakeholders last Friday to validate “Famili i Redi”, a jointly-developed pre-departure workshop focused on supporting labour migrants and their intimate partners to maximise the socio-economic benefits of labour mobility and sustain healthy family relationships.

“Labour mobility programmes generate significant socio-economic benefits for Pacific communities each year which enable families to accumulate savings, access educational opportunities, build climate-resilient housing, develop new skills and invest in income-generating activities,” says Dr. Jessie Connell, Chief of Mission of IOM Vanuatu.

Notwithstanding the success of these programmes, labour migration can shift family dynamics and generate risks and challenges for families. This is why the Department of Labour and Employment Services, IOM and World Vision have partnered to co-create Famili i Redi, which brings overseas workers and their intimate partners or other close family members into the same space to help them understand to their individual and shared experiences throughout the cycle of overseas work, including those of their children.

“Labour mobility is not just an individual journey – it’s a family journey,” says Kendra Gates Derousseau, Country Director of World Vision Vanuatu.

“The active role of former seasonal workers in all steps of developing this workshop – from identifying the priority topics through to design and piloting – has been particularly meaningful in contextualising Famili i Redi to meet the needs of overseas workers and their families.”

The core Famili i Redi 5-day workshop provides holistic tools, skills and strategies for labour migrants and their intimate partners, with modules about what to expect from overseas work, healthy relationships, gender-based violence prevention and family financial management, which includes budgeting, saving, reducing the cost of remittance transfers and entrepreneurship upon reintegration in Vanuatu. An optional 6th day also provides in-depth, interactive education on nutrition, with a practicum on cooking nutritious meals with ingredients available in Australia.

The cornerstone of Famili i Redi is the provision of participants with a range of practical tools that can be used to foster empathy and emotional intelligence, strengthen communication, and facilitate constructive decision-making. These skills are relevant and useful in all aspects of life, but are particularly important during labour mobility, when families may experience emotional shifts and changed family dynamics.

Understanding the impacts of labour migration on family relationships is a knowledge gap that has been identified in the National Gender Equality Policy (2020-2030), making this one of Famili i Redi’s priority areas for research, monitoring and evaluation.

“There is always discussion about the concerns linked to the separation of family members because distance creates a lot of impact in peoples’ lives,” says Murielle Meltenoven, Labour Commissioner of the Vanuatu Department of Labour and Employment Services.

“There is evidence to show that labour mobility programmes are a lot more successful when we have couples who talk regularly and who have healthy communication.”

Beyond the potential benefits of Famili i Redi for ni-Vanuatu families, its development has been a resounding success for multi-stakeholder partnership in Vanuatu.

Supported through the generous contribution of the Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls, a joint partnership between the European Union and the United Nations; the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australian Humanitarian Partnership; and the IOM Development Fund, Famili i Redi has also benefited from technical input from experts in labour mobility and gender-based violence in Vanuatu – particularly during Friday’s Validation Workshop.

The day-long Validation Workshop orientated partners on the development of Famili i Redi, provided a forum to review the research methodology and safeguarding and gender-based violence risk mitigation strategy, and featured interactive sessions from the workshop itself. At each stage, feedback was actively solicited from stakeholders about potential risks, opportunities or areas that could benefit from strengthening.

The Validation Workshop was also a forum for stakeholders to provide recommendations about how Famili i Redi could be made more accessible for families across Vanuatu in the future. The resulting discussion generated many creative potential modalities which partners intend to explore further.

“A lot of care has gone into developing this curriculum to ensure it is innovative and evidence-based, particularly in the context of gender-based violence prevention,” says Scarlett Hawkins, a Gender and Migration Specialist at IOM.

“The insights from Vanuatu’s thought leaders are essential to ensuring all components of Famili i Redi are high-quality and do no harm.”

The feedback from the Validation Workshop will be integrated into the finalised Famili i Redi package before the workshop’s scheduled pilot and launch this month.

With each cohort comprised of twenty couples, identified through the Department of Labour ‘Work Ready’ pool in Shefa and Sanma Provinces, Famili i Redi is expected to reach 220 couples by the end of the year.

“World Vision Vanuatu, IOM and the Department of Labour have benefited significantly from the process of co-creation,” says Kendra Derousseau.

“We expect to learn a lot from the roll-out of Famili i Redi in 2021. We see this as a package that will continue to be refined as we learn which elements overseas workers and their families find most resonant and useful.”

“We have high hopes for the future of Famili i Redi,” says Dr. Connell, “If done well, labour migration is a triple win for sending countries, receiving countries and the workers themselves. With a little investment, participation in programmes like Famili i Redi can also help ni-Vanuatu families to benefit more fully from labour migration.”

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