Balancing Reproductive and Productive Responsibilities: Care Strategies Implemented by Migrant Mothers in Mae Sot, Thailand

Lisa Wight, Queen’s University; Nway Oo; Tee Tar Sway; Supaporn Trongsakul; Eva Purkey; Susan Bartels; Heather Aldersey; Colleen M. Davison


Migrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines


Conflicts between ethnic minorities in Myanmar, the government, and the military have been ongoing for the past 50 years. Enduring unrest has caused thousands to flee to the region around Mae Sot, a city on Thailand’s western border. Women around the world assume a combination of reproductive and productive responsibilities, and during situations of armed conflict and displacement, conditions for women often worsen. This study sought to investigate the parenting experiences of female migrants from Myanmar living in protracted refugee situations in Mae Sot.

This research was part of a mixed-methods international comparative study on the experiences of parenting in adversity across five countries. In this analysis, 62 first-person qualitative narratives that were shared by migrant mothers were inductively analysed using the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven method.

The results highlight how migrant mothers undertake significant reproductive responsibilities, such as giving birth, breastfeeding, and child-rearing as well as productive responsibilities, including paid labour in the agricultural, formal, and informal sectors. In situations of migration-related adversity, productive responsibilities are placed upon women without the alleviation of their existing reproductive responsibilities. Migrant mothers must make difficult decisions about how to spend their time in order to simultaneously care for their children and financially support their families. Migrant mothers in Mae Sot utilize several different care strategies to either prioritize one responsibility over another or distribute their responsibilities amongst their children and extended family members.

Further research directions specific to migrants living in the Thai-Myanmar border region will be discussed.

Download Paper

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |