Celebrating AMI At 10: Harnessing Social Media Power To Change Lives

Celebrating AMI At 10: Harnessing Social Media Power To Change Lives
As part of preparations to celebrate the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) movement at 10, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) is profiling most significant change stories.  This story involves Blessing Hungwe, an artisanal and small-scale miner (ASMer), whose testimony on challenges faced by women miners in Guruve was share on social media – youtube during the 3rd edition of the Great Dyke AMI held on 03 and 04 June 2015 at Nichrut lodge in Shurugwi. Sometimes change comes from the unlikeliest stories. The Great Dyke AMI was organised by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in partnership with Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt and Development (ZIMCODD).

Thanks partly to Blessing’s testimony on youtube, women miners in Guruve are getting support from International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Africa Development Bank (ADB) to establish their own gold milling centre. Blessing was selected by Ministry of Women Affairs to represent women miners during the Commission on Status of Women 61 (CSW) that was held in New York in 2017. From being a district chairperson of Guruve women in mining, she is now a national leader of women in mining association under the Ministry of Women Affairs. Currently, Blessing is working to amplify concerns of women miners using social media to make it difficult for government, corporates and development agencies to ignore women voices.

 In her compelling testimony, available on youtube, Blessing revealed prohibitive costs of doing business for women. For example, walking over 10 km to access mining areas because of poor road network, and paying 30 grams of gold to access gold milling services located not less than 250 km away. Further, $4000 is needed upfront to get an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate, a requirement to commence mining. The bulk of the EIA costs – $3,500 is paid to a consultant.

Because Blessing Hungwe’s testimony was shared on youtube, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) picked her story online and referred her to Ministry of Mines as one of the prospective candidates to represent women during CSW61 held last year in New York.  Blessing participated at the CSW61 after she was successfully interviewed by Ministry of Women Affairs.

“Initially I did not know that my testimony was posted on youtube until I was told by UNDP personnel that is where they picked my story. Later, ILO came to Guruve to verify the challenges faced by women miners in Guruve based on the testimony that was shared on youtube. Now, ILO with the support of Africa Development Bank (ADB) have pledged to assist Guruve women miners with a gold mill. So far, an entrepreneurship training was done involving 25 women, selected from 150 women who were interviewed.” Blessing Hungwe. 

She cherishes the power of social media as a tool to highlight the plight of women miners. Currently, she is working on a small documentary to profile how women miners in Kwekwe are highly exposed to mercury during processing and recovery of gold ore. Mercury use has adverse health and environmental impacts.

About AMI

In 2009, led by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), formed the AMI as a space form mining affected communities to vocalise their concerns to government and corporates. AMI emerged as a response to missing community voices at the Mining Indaba, a regional event, where corporates and government meet annually in Cape Town to discuss mining investment opportunities and challenges in Africa. AMI has since bread its tentacles to at country level in the SADC region. In Zimbabwe, the national AMI started in 2012 and was cascade at provincial and district level in 2013.

 

By Mukasiri Sibanda

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