'Social Protection on the Move: a transnational exploration of Nicaraguan migrant women’s engagement with social protection in Spain and Nicaragua', by C.G. Guharay Gómez

Chandreyi Guadalupe Guharay Gómez is one of the ISS MA Research Paper Award winners for the academic year 2017-2018.

'The paper engages with how Nicaraguan migrant women in Spain produce social protection for themselves and their families across borders, by mobilizing resources and accessing formal structures of protection. Simultaneously, the thesis identifies the challenges they experience in that process. Chandreyi follows the migration journey of Karla, one of the Nicaraguan women who participated in her research. The thesis represents a very original contribution to the conceptualisation of TSP by skillfully weaving together threads from the transnationalism, migration-social protection nexus and gender in migration literatures.
One of the most interesting aspects of the thesis is the discussion of the way gender geographies of power played out in women’s decisions to migrate, the ways they engaged with accessing and providing social protection for themselves and their families, and how they navigated the precarity of their own situations as migrants with changing legal status, here, there and somewhere else. In this way, Chandreyi recognizes that migrant journey are not from one place to another, but at times, continue through different geographical locations' (as formulated by the evaluation committee consisting of Albert Kraaij, HHS, Farhad Mukhtarov, ISS and Katarzyna Grabska, ISS).


This research paper examines Nicaraguan migrant women’s engagement with transnational social protection (TSP) in Spain and Nicaragua. Although in recent years TSP has emerged as a relevant research agenda in migration studies, not much is known about the ways in which migrants, particularly women, navigate welfare systems and mobilize resources to access and provide social protection across borders. By approaching this study from a gender lens, and by privileging the voices of migrants, this work represents an innovative and original contribution to the growing scholarship on TSP.

To grasp the transnational nature of ‘social protection on the move’, I have used a multi-sited methodology to conduct qualitative research Spain and Nicaragua, sequentially. Such a multi-sited approach provides an opportunity to understand the complex transborder processes in which migrants are embedded, and allows for a more holistic understanding of these transnational dynamics.

Findings suggest that that Nicaraguan migrant women create assemblages of formal and informal social protection that intermingle state and non-state actors. Nonetheless, due to the exclusion or limited access to formal social protection schemes, participants mostly rely on informal sources of social protection, particularly personal networks and grassroots organizations. Furthermore, Nicaraguan migrant women’s experiences evidence that engagement with TSP is a gendered process, as strategies and practices embedded in social protection are shaped by gender notions in sending and host countries.

As this paper evidences, migrants’ transnational lives require new ways of thinking and organizing social protection. Consequently, TSP will remain a relevant matter of contention in the fields of migration, social policy, and development in the foreseeable future. Based on these reflections, I finish by proposing policy recommendations for enhancing Nicaraguan migrant women’s social protection in Spain and Nicaragua, and for providing just, inclusive, and transformative social protection for people on the move.

Keywords: transnational migration, social protection, migrant women, migratory trajectories, gender, Nicaragua, Spain.

Download the full text of this working paper (pdf)