Compiled by Proud Nyakuni and Cosmas Sunguro.
47.5 million people work in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in 80 countries, 30-50 % are women, therefore, “Greater economic empowerment can be enhanced by women to break the cycle of poverty”. This was said by one of the speakers at the Gender and Extractives symposium that was held online through ZOOM meetings hosted by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), ActionAid, Zimbabwe Women Resources Centre Network (ZWRCN), PROWEB, ZIMCODD and WLSA from 14-16 July 2021. The main theme of the Symposium was, “Women Leadership, Advancing an equal future in the Extractives Industry. “This symposium also saw the launch of the Decent work for Women in mining campaign. Mining has always been regarded a male sector with women relegated to clerical or administrative jobs that are less paying and of less economic value. However, to empower women, break the cycle of poverty and to achieve gender equality, women should be afforded equal opportunities like their male counterparts in the mining sector. These sentiments were made by ZELA’s Nyaradzo Mutonhori.
What needs to be done by Women themselves.
As much as patriarchy in some instances is argued to be hindering women from participating in the mining productive work due to traditionally defined roles that women are expected to perform which are mainly unpaid care work, one can argue that women themselves must rise above that by first believing in themselves and their fellow women. One speaker, Ms Ndlovu pointed out that some women lack confidence in themselves such that they shy away from opportunities. They fail to knock doors where they can get help. For example, the few who would have made it in the sector, sometimes lack confidence in their fellow women and they end up employing men and not women at their mining sites. Therefore, if women still believe men can do a better job than women, the fight for equality will not be won, the change in how society perceives women must start with women themselves, before they expect men to value them economically and believe in them.
Role of Civil Society
Women sometimes face challenges of being despised by men and they end up doing risky jobs, including extracting gold using mercurywhich is hazardous to both their health and the environment, walking for long distances to access water, at times this exposes the girl child to violations (by Sophie Takuva a miner from Zvishavane , Situational Report from research by ZELA in September 2020 and April 2021 also indicated these results). Therefore, to end this poverty cycle, the society has to protect women so that they survive in the mining sector, as Rumbidzai Magwaza reiterated, ‘ it is time to campaign for decent work for women in the Mining sector. The objective is to provide decent work for women along the mining value chain. To innovate a culture where women have time to do productive work in the mining sector and reduce unpaid care work for them. It starts by believing that women can do it and demystify the cultural beliefs that hinder women’s full participation. ZIDAWU noted that the organisationhas done a skit in which it tries to address this myth and aims to educate the communities and create a gender sensitive environment. These are measures that the society should adopt. While the society may turn a blind eye on these societal impediments, we cannot continue suffering in silence when women remain at the periphery of economic empowerment.
Role of Government and its departments
Parliament and Legislature
As women highlighted, it is difficult to venture into mining as a business due to financial incapacity. Although there are banks such as Women Empowerment Bank and other funding options available, women usually fail to benefit from them due to lack of collateral security to guarantee their loans hence they fail to benefit from such. Thus, it was pointed out that as the government works around the aspect of Ease of Doing Business, consideration should be made to extend the principle towards accommodating women, so they are included and participate in the mining value chain. How easy it is in Zimbabwe, to do business, we are losing to other countries. For women it is a greater challenge thus policy and law should be deliberately made to address that. That is if the vision towards an upper middle-class economy is not merely a talk show without political will to implement it.
The hope of the nation and women particularly is in the finalization of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that is expected to ensure that women participate in the sector, promoting women leadership in both public and corporate governance in the mining sector by their inclusion according to Section 80 of the Constitution and Section 56.
National Social Security Authority
Lack of Social protection was another challenge raised of the National Social Security Authority which caters for formal sector only a sad situation for women in the informal sector including the greater majority of Zimbabwe given the rate of unemployment. This means the Social Security of Zimbabwe is lagging the international standards that require that every citizen should have security in event of old age, incapacity, and disability. A feature that is greatly missing in the social security of Zimbabwe, impacting negatively on women more. The aspect of occupational health and safety for women in the artisanal and small-scale mining is highly ignored, yet, they are suffering by coming into contact with mercury and other dangerous chemicals used in extraction of minerals.
The Ministry of Women Affairs
The Ministry is working with the civil society which is applauded, it is said to be in the process of establishing the Guruve Women in Gold Mining Service Center. The Centre will be equipped with mercury free processing plant. A registered company will operate the plant and the Guruve Women in Mining Cooperative will have 60% shares in the company and the rest of the shares will be owned by the Women Development Fund and Guruve RDC as alluded to by a Representative from Guruve women in Mining. Theplant is supposed to be commissioned in December 2021. These are empowerment initiatives that we look forward to and having more women actively participating.
Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development
The complaints were raised of the bureaucracy and delays in the Ministry in processing and issuing out licenses which is causing women to lose potential investors they would have secured going to invest somewhere else, since they want to see papers proving ownership and mining license. It is also believed to be aiding the grabbing of mining claims from women by men or political bigwigs as they would not have the ownership papers and license. There is need to have a one stop centre at the Ministry for ease of doing business and a desk for women that will address issues specifically to do with women to promote participation of women in the sector.
Dealing with a decent environment at workplaces.
During deliberations, it was noted that the working environment of most women in mining is a cause of concern. This also includes the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is designed to fit women. For long the issue of gendered worksuits had been raised and it seems not much is being done to address the challenge. A case in point is that of women wearing worksuits that are designed for men. Biologically, women are structured differently with the male counterparts hence they should wear clothing tailor made for them. The same applies to safety shoes. Due to the Covid pandemic, accommodation issues have been a challenge at workplaces. This means that most women have resorted to be crowded in single rooms causing a threat of communicable diseases to spread. Whatever the case, the women at workplaces still deserve decent working conditions as provided by section 65 of the constitution.
The just ended Gender symposium provided a window for both communities and related organisations to come together and find common ground to tackle gender issues. The inclusivity of the presenters allowed diversity of opinions during deliberations. Mining Communities need to play ball rather than be observers to the critical issues raised by contributing in addressing the recommendations.
ZIDAWU Information Desk