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MIGHTY WOMEN IN MINING: The time to rise up and shine along the value chain

By Cosmas Sunguro and Proud Nyakuni

Ms Sibo, a woman in small scale mining

Working in a mine has never been a stroll in the park. Let alone being a woman. One needs a heart of a lion to challenge the impediments that are along the way. The economic challenges coupled with obsolete societal beliefs;  remain a tall order for a woman to survive in the mining industry. Gender stereotyping and sometimes violence is nestled in this sector. Yet with all these obstacles, it’s the right time to rise up and shine along the value chain.

The Historic celebrations of International Women’s Day maybe gone but it left an indelible mark in most people ‘s hearts who attended the occasion in Mutare showground. These were characterised by the speeches of encouragement to stand and fight for Women’s rights. We stood in awe looking at both men and women celebrating a woman who is also a mother,a sister, a worker or a nurse of somebody.  And in most cases involved in unpaid care work. However,  the pain trickled up when there was dramatisation of how women still suffer the negative impacts of patriarchal system , that promotes harmful cultural practices and customs thus hindering the progress in promoting gender equality, women and youth empowerment and fighting sexual harassment and exploitation. 

In the mining Industry there are disturbing reports of hostile grabbing of mining claims belonging to women that remains prevalent in the small scale mining sector as gender based violence also continues to be perpetrated towards women across the whole mining value chain. Most women have been failing to break into the lucrative mining sector, with figures showing that they constitute just a paltry five percent of small-scale miner.

In a conversation with the Councilor from Penhalonga, she stated that in Penhalonga Redwing Mine, after the Police operations swept away the informal artisanal miners (populary known as Magwejas or makorokoza)   persons claiming to be members of the Zimbabwe National army are now in control of the Mills taking Seventy percent of the gains leaving the miner with 30 percent which is day light robbery but , because of the prevailing economic hardships the miners cannot hold on to their precious gold while their families starve. The most painful thing is some of the people suffering this are women fending for their families and youthful boys trying to make a living. The educational system in the mining communities is deterioriting as young girls are being impregnated by the mine workers who later run away or deny responsibility.

Thus, as we continue to celebrate a woman who has made it, the question remains, what do we do to raise another woman from the grassroots  where she is being  down-trodden? Of course as  ZIDAWU and other likeminded organisations we need to effectively  put our workplan in to action. The  capacity building programmes aimed at empowering women as they languish in poverty while seated on top of gold claims should not remain a vision but should get into motion.

 We have to fight victimisation of women in the small scale mining sector by encouraging them to build up and come up with consortiums and cooperatives that  will go a long way in enhancing women’s capacity in a male dominated society.  We also have women already doing income generating projects in poultry, it is high time we have a fully fledged committee working on the implementation and monitoring of these projects so that they do not die a natural death due to mismanagement.

All hope is not lost as we have examples of women who have managed to out manoeuvre the obstacles in mining. A case on point is that of Ms Sibo and Ms Sande of Penhalonga. Both are small scale miners who possess mining claims and have some equipment. They both have employees and are doing pretty well in this male dominated industry. In separate interviews, they chronicled how difficult it was to be renowned miners.

Moreover, we have to continue in educating and training women and youths on their rights and opportunities available for them to start projects as individuals and groups to alleviate poverty through borrowing money from established women empowerment banks, POSB and the Gold Development Initiative Fund of 2017. The reports show that less than 15 percent of women had accessed these loans, an indication that women are either unaware of this opportunity or incapacitated to do so as they depend on their male counterparts. Therefore, the need remains for men to be encouraged to be champions of women rights, equality and non – discrimination as they stand with their wives, mothers, and sisters in unlocking the riches of the country in mining. Mr Murapa, a Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development recently encouraged women and youth to tap into various opportunities presented in the mining industry. There is opportunity to be involved in being a pegger, owning a claim, being a buyer, owning a stump mill among other activities that can be done.

There is also need to extend awareness campaigns against sexual harrassment and exploitation,  early, child or forced marriages as we engage schools in mining communities of Chiadzwa, Chimanimani,  Penhalonga and Arda Transau.  Moreover, as learnt from other Champions of Women’s rights we have to engage Men in our constituency in dialogue, teaching and talking on how to promote the rights of women, extending to chiefs as custodians of our culture to make deliberate move to abolish and rule against all practices that oppresses the woman and the youth.

Mining Sector, reveals that although the mining sector remains a key driver to economic growth and transformation in SubSaharan Africa, rarely has it delivered benefits in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods for the majority of the population particularly women. Mining in Zimbabwe has been largely a men’s affair, but women are slowly making inroads in the sector against all odds.  However, the issue of funding for women in mining has remained a challenge and the Ministry has to date funded 28 women mining projects across the country through the Women Development Fund. We recommend the government to improve funding of Women projects and also to relax on the conditions of security, as Professor Machakanja in her speech rightly says, women in most cases do not own any property hence, lack access to loans as they do not have security needed in securing such.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe is still governed by the 1961 Mines and Mineral Act, which was enacted during the colonial era and we call the government to ensure the new mining statutes are more gender responsive to give effect to the International Convention on Elimination of all forms of discrimination and Equality against women and provisions of the Constitution,  more particularly section 56, equality and non – discrimination. There is need to bridge the gender gap in mining and women must indeed rise and shine along the mining value chain if they are to ever claim their position and enjoy the economic emancipation.

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