By Lindi Mpofu.
“WOMEN’S DAY” gives “WOMEN IN MINING” an opportunity to celebrate a sector which is fast growing in Africa but still suffers from lack of recognition despite the tremendous contributions of women.
Zimbabwe’s recognition of Women’s Day is an affirmation that the other half of humanity – women – are critical to the achievement of the countries vision.
For a country to be integrated, peaceful, prosperous, people-centred and represents a dynamic force in the global arena, Women must be an integral part of the agenda.
As a Nation one crucial tenet of the agenda for recovery of our economy is the need for a strategy to optimise the use of Zimbabwe’s resources for the benefit of all. In line with this, Zimbabwe’s rich human and natural resource base must be poised to play a critical role in the industrialisation and structural transformation of the Country.
The World Bank in its Gender Dimensions of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining noted that in Africa women make up 50% of the artisanal and small-scale mining workforce.
In fact, conservative estimates indicate the presence of more than eight million artisanal miners in Africa (according to the UNECA and the African Union Commission), It is important to note that there is a clear demonstration that women in Africa typically play a much larger role in artisanal mining as compared to large-scale mining.
Despite the significant involvement and contribution of women to the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, despite women’s contributions there is clear evidence that women in ASM continue to be negatively impacted by their engagement in ASM.
This is usually a reflection of existing gender inequalities (division of labour and cultural norms that lower the status and authority of women relative to men), which are compounded by the social, environmental and economic pressures that exist within the industry.
It is for this reason that I call upon the Leadership of our Nation, the Ministries and Stakeholders in Mining to promote the need for a mining sector that is safe, healthy, gender inclusive, environmentally friendly and socially responsible.
A call of action for the harnessing of the potential of Women ASM to improve rural livelihoods, to stimulate entrepreneurship in a socially-responsible manner, to promote local and integrated national development as well as regional cooperation.
As Vice President of Zimbabwe Miners Federation, I wish to highlight a number of key gender-related challenges that women continue to face in the sector.
These include: critical inaccessibility of capital and financing for the mining operations from mainstream financial facilities; the lack of appropriate machinery and technology (such as the use of the very hazardous mercury for amalgamation of gold), lack of access to information on availability of mining claims, extreme difficulty in acquiring mining licences, lack of geological information on the output capacity of their mines due to a lack of finances for the employment of surveyors/geologists; lack of technical know-how of the sector due to unavailability of capacity building opportunities; lack of information on the market dynamics including tax incentives; labour-intensive and prevailing patriarchal ideologies that mining is a man’s job, thereby obstructing crucial information from trickling down to the women miners.
Some of the Key Recommendations proposed by the women in artisanal and small-scale mining include, but are not limited to: the need for the provision of financing from both the Public and Private sector to make their operations profitable and commercially viable; provision of appropriate technology and machinery (particularly for gold mining) to avert the hazardous side effects of the use of mercury and cyanide; institution of a clear information dissemination framework that reaches the grassroots women when claims/concessions become available.
the need for training and capacity-building initiatives targeting the women miners to equip them with technical know-how in the sector to avoid the all-too-common cases of swindling affecting women; the need for market information and the establishment of mechanisms that connect women to ready markets; and targeted sensitisation of the communities to dispel the patriarchal ideologies that pervade the sector.
Bringing these issues forward to your attention I seek reprieve and assistance from all Government Offices and Private Sector to assist us the Women Miners of Zimbabwe zw I pray this letter will influence government policy, planning and actions to address the challenges women artisanal and small-scale miners face.
This will also help to position women miners to better contribute to a sector that is critical for Zimbabwe’s Prosperity and Economic Development for Future Generations.
Lindi Mpofu is currently the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) Vice President – Women’s Affairs.