June 16 is not 'just another day' – it is the International Day of Family Remittances

Written by Jessica Thomas

IFAD is dedicating a day to the millions of migrant workers who make a vital contribution to the well-being of their families and communities back home. On June 16, we will celebrate the first International Day of Family Remittances.

But why has IFAD, through its Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR), decided to commemorate this day? What is the day meant to achieve?

Worldwide, over 247 million people live outside the countries and communities they call home. They leave their countries to look for opportunities, for jobs, for education. To some it is simply a question of survival, and they are ready to take on whatever task, at whatever pay, as long as they can send money to the families and communities left behind. The funds they send home are known as remittances.

The individual stories of those who leave their towns and villages for foreign destinations are stories of incredible dedication and tremendous sacrifice. That is why IFAD has dedicated 16 June as a day of recognition for their commitment and sacrifice to family. It recognizes the years and decades spent in a foreign country, labouring so their children might be able to live and work in their country of origin – the heartache of living far away not only from family and friends, but from their land and their culture. To live like that is a kind of life away from life.
Plans for International Day of Family Remittances are announced at IFAD
Governing Council session, February 2015. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

Remittances are an expression of fundamental family commitment. They constitute one of the world's most direct methods of poverty alleviation.

The launch of the International Day of Family Remittances will take place in Milan, Italy, during the Global Forum on Remittances and Development, in the context of Expo Milano 2015. It will be a high-level event with important dignitaries and speakers.

The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of international days to mark important aspects of human life and history. Specialized UN agencies can also proclaim these days. You may not be familiar with all the days. Some, like World Environment Day, World Water Day and International Women's Day, are better known than others. But each and every international day has been designated for a specific reason.

Inevitably, the International Day of Family Remittances will call to mind someone we either know well or have met briefly. It will always remind me of a friend I made a few years ago through one of the many FFR programmes. Her name is Minda, a 60-year-old powerhouse full of energy and initiative. She comes from the Philippines and is a domestic worker. When she came to Italy over 30 years ago, she was supporting 26 family members back home and working seven days a week. She sent so much of her hard -earned money home to the Philippines that, in the end, she had nothing left for herself.

Although Minda did not introduce me to the issue of migration and remittances, she brought it to another level, and the word ‘sacrifice’ took on a whole other meaning.

For IFAD, this day will represent an invaluable opportunity to recognize the efforts of migrants, strengthen current partnerships and create new synergies. For all of us, it is a way to say thank you.

Surely now, when you hear the date June 16, you will remember that it is not 'just another day.'