EU protecting the rights and safety of women migrant workers in South East Asia with €25 million

With a financial support of over €25 million, the new programme “Safe and Fair” will contribute to improving the labour migration conditions for women in the ASEAN region. Together with UN Women and the International Labour Organization, the EU will work with governments, community-based organisations, civil society and service providers to improve labour laws, access to information and services, and ultimately prevent and put an end to violence and trafficking of women and girls.

The programme will also aim at improving data and knowledge on the rights and contributions of women migrant workers. Through targeted awareness raising campaigns, the EU will actively promote the change in attitudes of relevant stakeholders to ensure safety, well-being and fair treatment of women migrant workers in the region.

“Our Spotlight Initiative is a movement without precedent in the global fight to end violence against women and girls”, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica commented. “With Safe and Fair programme we want to empower female migrant workers in the ASEAN region so that they become less vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, violence and abuse. Through our €25 million contribution, and in cooperation with our international and local partners, we are investing in a brighter future that fully respects and protects all women and girls.”

The programme was officially launched at the occasion of the ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development in Bangkok, Thailand, on 17 November 2017, ahead of the International Day on the elimination of violence against women on 25 November.


Violence against women and girls is one of the greatest obstacles to gender equality and the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ human rights, as well as to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It occurs worldwide, cutting across all generations, nationalities, communities and spheres of society.

Around a third of all women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Furthermore, women and girls account for more than 70% of all victims of human trafficking detected globally.

To end these severe human rights violations, in September 2017 a major EU-UN Joint “Spotlight Initiative” worth €500 million was launched to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.

To implement the “Spotlight Initiative”, the Commission first launched a global call for proposals on preventing sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls worldwide. The selected projects will empower women and girls to end violence and increase their access to sexual and reproductive health care services and rights. The interventions will focus specifically on the most remote areas of the partner countries and the so-called “forgotten crises”, i.e. crises that receive limited international attention in spite of growing needs.

The “Safe and Fair” programme, launched in Bangkok in cooperation with UN Women and the International Labour Organization, is now the first deliverable under the “Spotlight Initiative” in Asia. According to estimates, of the 20.2 million migrants globally that originate from ASEAN, 10 million are women. The “Safe and Fair” programme aims to improve the legal, policy and institutional frameworks in the ASEAN region, ensure better access to information and quality services and thus empower female migrant workers, making them less vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and abuse.

As the next step, the EU and the UN will identify additional programmes and beneficiary countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, where the Spotlight Initiative will also be implemented. New programmes will be developed based on what is needed most to protect and empower women and girls in each region.

Over the next few years, various targeted initiatives and programmes will be implemented to counter sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices; trafficking and economic (labour) exploitation; femicide; and domestic and family violence.