A Record number of people are on the move today, many of whom are women and children. In September 2016, world leaders adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

The Declaration set in motion intergovernmental negotiations, which are planned to culminate in the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration in 2018.

The Global Compact is intended to set out a range of principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration. It will be framed within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, set to leave no one behind, in which Member States are committed to cooperate in facilitating safe, orderly and regular migration.

These photographs capture Africa’s human mobility and the UN Migration Agency’s (IOM) impact on the continent. The exhibition equally highlights the importance of gender in a world of migration.

Migration is a human reality and the Global Compact strives to create a world in which migrants move as a matter of genuine choice rather than necessity.


Over the last few years, Boko Haram violence has forced more than two million people out of their homes across the Lake Chad Basin region. While many live in displacement camps supported by international aid, the majority live with family, friends and strangers in local communities.

“I learned about respect and caring from Hauwa,” says Hafsata Mohamme, whose family of 20 has lived on Hauwa’s land for the last nine months. “My oldest son has no job and we have no source of income, having lost so many men to Boko Haram, but we’re living comfortably thanks to her.”

Hauwa is sharing her land with 40 displaced families. They live in IOM shelters on her property in Banki, northeastern Nigeria.


Six-year-old Nasibo sits in an abandoned safe space for children in Doolow, Somalia. She stares out the window thinking about her older brother and father, who died last week due to starvation from the ongoing drought.

She is still in disbelief and says it has not sunk in for her yet that she will never see them again. Hungry, all she is thinking about right now are the sweets her older brother would bring for her whenever he came home from work.

In Doolow, hundreds of Somalis continue to flee from distance rural villages, often crossing Al Shabaab territory, in search of any form of humanitarian assistance.


Ahmed is a Somali medical nurse from Finland working in Somaliland.

He had planned to become a civil engineer. When he decided he wanted to directly help people, his career took a different path. “In a way, it felt like I had a calling to be a nurse. I really couldn’t describe it any other way,” he explains.

“I had to overcome the notions that some may hold regarding male nurses working in a female dominated industry. Luckily, my family has always been supportive and in the eyes of the people in need here, I am just as good as any doctor.”

Through a special project support by IOM, Ahmed has been able to work in remote villages providing medical help to those affected by the drought.


A hundred of Rwandans affected by the landslides in 2016 are being trained in welding, mechanic, masonry and tailoring as part of an IOM project aimed at building people’s skills and creating opportunities at home, allowing them to make genuine decisions about whether they should migrate.

“I like it because I am able to do this job. My family is very supportive of my choice. Once the training is finished I will practice what I have learned and I will encourage other girls to do the same,” says Providence, a mechanic.


“We used to farm and fish. Here we can’t grow food, perhaps we can have a small business.”

Fatima lives at N’gourtoua, one the settlements along the highway that is home to more than 400 households of mostly displaced people. IOM has assisted the population with shelter and basic necessities.

The Diffa region in Niger hosts refugees from Nigeria and internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing violence and imminent attacks from Boko Haram.


Internally displaced persons watch a friendly match of football being held between different camps for displaced people in Maiduguri. As people continue to flee their distant homes from Boko Haram attacks, IDPs find refuge in one of the several camps within Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in North Eastern Nigeria.


Country of Origin: Senegal
Current Country: Mauritania

“My heart was heavy to leave them but I had to attempt the adventure, see what was outside. I had to live my life.”

“In Senegal, I had been working as a seamstress for three years when one day, I told my boss I was leaving. I needed to take my mind off things, discover another country. I arrived in Mauritania and worked as a cook. My parents were scared for me because I was a single woman, abroad. My heart was heavy to leave them but I had to attempt the adventure, see what was outside. I had to live my life.

In Mauritania, I met a woman who let me stay with her. I had a small sewing machine that my mum bought me and I did some sewing for a month. One day, I saw a fabric pouch and told my friend I could make one. She gave me some work to do and liked it. We opened a sewing shop together in Nouakchott. I did everything to succeed, I am ambitious. Now I do what I like and I have more self-confidence.”


Country of Origin:
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Current Country: Mauritania”

“With all I went through,
I realized that my talent would
take me everywhere.”

“I heard so many stories about Europe, friends who made it and now have a decent life that I wanted a new life in El Dorado too. So, I left my country.

In 2011, I went to Mauritania on a regular visa hoping to make it to Europe ultimately. It is then that my new life started to take shape. I had the chance to meet a local painter and I finally discovered my talent and myself.

In 2013, after a first successful exhibition, I tried to go to Morocco. I bought a flight ticket to Casablanca, without any visa. As soon as I landed, I was sent back to Mauritania.
After five failed attempts, tired of this situation, I decided to start a new life in Mauritania. As I was talented, my friend welcomed me again in his atelier and helped me find a job as an art teacher in a local school.

I was so obsessed with going to Europe that I was wasting my youth and my creativity for nothing. With all I went through, I realized that my talent would take me everywhere.


Country of Origin: Somalia
Current Country: Mauritania

“As a former diaspora member, I am making the link, trying to be the bridge between both countries.”

“When I grew up in Somalia education was free. Schools were built everywhere and in high school, we students helped with the construction of new schools during the weekend. When I started working I was a civil servant at first, but then I was given the opportunity to study at university and become a TV producer. I left the country a few months before the civil war broke out in 1991 because all journalists were targeted. I came to Finland in June of 1990. I returned to Mogadishu in 2009 and became an MP in the transitional parliament. From June 2011 to November 2012 I was also Minister of Water, Energy, Oil and Minerals.

When I returned, it was hard to recognize my city. In my memory Mogadishu was clean with nice streets and buildings. When I got back there were no real roads, just bushes and trees, and no buildings, just rubble. It was full of guns, for the slightest thing people were using arms.

I found a young generation that had got no education. At the moment, I am working for IOM,trying to be the bonding bridge between the two educational systems of Finland and Somalia. For the Somali diaspora, and for every diaspora, the goal should be to transfer their experience, knowledge and skills to their home country and share with their fellow people.”


Country of Origin: Kenya
Current Country: Ireland

“Societies should be inclusive and for that we need to hear the voices of migrants, especially women migrant voices.”

“I was born in Kenya and worked as a social worker for five years before I came to Ireland as a student. I chose Ireland because an Irish priest in Kenya had baptized me; I felt I already had a strong connection to the country.

When I first arrived in Ireland in 1994, I was a novelty. I was a ‘good thing’ and people wanted to engage with me. I went back to Kenya to work with homeless children for a while and then in 1998 I came back to Europe and everything was different.
Ireland was now doing well - the economy was booming but somehow the perception of migrants had inversely gone down. That’s when I started the NGO Swahili for Sisterhood. I wanted to engage with my own community and help women.

When I first arrived in Ireland, migrants did not want to go there actually. But with the booming economy, many people started to arrive and locals got scared.

I remember when I first bought a house, people were scared that it would start smelling of spicy food. It was as if seeing a person of color in my village was threatening. Those people are now the most supportive.

I believe that governments need to invest in helping people to know each other better. Societies should be inclusive and for that we need to hear the voices of migrants, especially female migrant voices.”