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Pushing for the realization of women’s rights to development in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Case of the mining sector

#GenderAndExtractives #EachforEqual #StopMacheteKillings #COVID-19

On the 30th of June 2020, we convened the 4th edition of the Gender and Extractives Symposium, a multi-stakeholder dialogue and engagement space created by the Platform on Gender and Extractives to stimulate interest and collaborative effort in engendering the mining sector in Zimbabwe. This year’symposium ran under the theme, ‘Pushing for the realization of women’s rights to development in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Case of the mining sector.’

Convening in such a difficult moment in our lives where the COVID-19 pandemic has brought negative global effects in the social and economic fronts. The majority are reeling from the impacts of the pandemic and women have not been spared. The mineral supply chains are being raptured while the machete gang violence in the country remains unabated with the number of attacks in the past days having surged.

Whist women have derived socio-economic benefits from artisanal mining which is no longer an alternative activity but a key economic activity, the incidents of gang violence where vulnerable people especially women are primary targets has negatively affected women’s participation in the mining sector. 

The COVID-19 has also brought with it depressing levels of Gender Based Violence (GBV). Though government has signed and adopted laws, policies and action plans to address GBV, survivors are unable to access justice without properly capacitated response structures. The Gender and Extractives Platform’s scoping of the context has illustrated that there are various fragmented, non-holistic and uncoordinated initiatives by various institutional actors that are all attempting to address issues of violence in mining areas; peace and security. However, there is a narrow focus on the gendered nuances of violence in mining areas.

The government and development players must work together to address the structural causes of GBV in mining areas and in the broader Zimbabwean society. Fundamental conversations about the nature and scale of violence must be undertaken while joint strategies and actions must be developed in a move to address the challenge.

Access to clean and potable water remains a huge problem in several communities and due to the gender roles, women have found themselves at the receiving end. Since the start of the diamond mining operations, the services that were derived from rivers such as Odzi have slowly diminished as the water quality and accessibility has progressively declined. As a way of ensuring corporate social responsibility, mining companies must provide potable water to communities while making sure that they do not discharge effluent in these water bodies.

Women in the chrome mining sector feel short-changed as they have failed to realise maximum benefit from chrome mining. The small scale miners argue that chrome is being bought below economical rate adding that they are being paid in RTGS while the hired equipment is being charged in USD by the same chrome buyers predominantly the Chinese. It was noted how some companies have complete disregard of their concerns and have an unresponsive culture even when communities present their grievances. 

From the submissions, it was realised that some mining companies especially the Chinese have not been effective in environment reclamation. Open pits left behind as a result of their operations have proven to be ‘deadly pits,’ with loss of both human and animal lives having been recorded.

Recommendations:

We acknowledge that Zimbabwe is endowed with diverse minerals. Despite the attractive minerals in different communities, the country has not realised the full benefits of these vast minerals. To ensure sustainable development, transparency and accountability the following issues must be addressed;

  • The Government of Zimbabwe must move a step further to gazette a Statutory Instrument whose objective would be to protect the citizens from attacks by machete wielding gangs;
  • The government must support and enable sustainable artisanal and small-scale mining activities by formalising this livelihood sector. The sector’s contribution to the country’s economy cannot be overemphasized especially in the gold sector where the ASM players account for over 60% of the total gold output in the country;
  • The Government must prioritise supply of medical services to People Living with HIV/AIDS and women taking contraceptives. Failure to prioritise provision of these services will have negative consequences as noted from an upsurge of unplanned pregnancies especially in mining communities;
  • Mining companies should carry out full Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and comply with their commitments. This process must not be a ‘box ticking’ procedure but rather it must be given the due diligence it deserves;
  • An enabling legal framework has to be put in place while some of our laws such as the Mines and Minerals Act have to be urgently reviewed to accommodate the needs and aspirations of local communities while views of women must be equally incorporated;
  • COVID-19 has also seen an increase of early child  marriages in several mining communities, therefore awareness campaigns and sex education to mitigate impacts of mining on early child marriages and HIV/AIDS have to be undertaken by the Government and development partners while the affected must be given the support they deserve;
  • The Government must urgently introduce the cadastral system to enable proper mining title system administration hinged on transparency;
  • The Free Prior Informed Consent principle must be embraced by all investors to safeguard local communities’ rights and ensure that companies conform to appropriate corporate social responsibility programmes;
  • We acknowledge that the ASGM sector is the biggest source of anthropogenic mercury release into fauna and flora. Therefore, the Government must come up with a cheap alternative to mercury and also move towards ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury to curb the environmental effects of the neurotoxin;
  • Gender considerations should be made through increasing women’s access to mercury free technology which commonly is capital intensive. Gender sensitive financial products should be designed to address this concern;
  • ASM players on the other hand must embrace mercury alternatives such as panning and borax or direct smelting;
  • Women in mineral processing demand more and intensive training and awareness raising interventions.

The Government intends to grow the mining sector from a USD$3 billion to a USD$12 billion sector by 2023 and we argue that increased women’s participation in the ASM sector is critical in driving economic growth, alleviating poverty, and contributing to development.

#STOPTHEMACHETE
Help us find a lasting solution to the anarchy brought by machete gangs who have robbed us of the country’s harmony- Sign the Petition! http://chng.it/TVC5Prfv

Harare, 30 June 2020

LIST OF REPRESENTATIVES PRESENT:

  • Action Aid
  • Centre for Conflict Management Trust
  • Centre for Natural Resources Governance
  • Community Based Organisations
  • Ministry of Mines and Mining Development
  • OXFAM
  • PACT
  • Women and Law in Southern Africa
  • Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
  • Zimbabwe Women in Mining Association
  • Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association
  • Zoom virtual participants

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