By Thomas Chidamba
It is no longer a lone voice in the wilderness. More organisations have found their voices. They have caught up. Their voices are in harmony. They now sing from the same chorus as those who sang first.
And Chiadzwa Community Development Trust is the latest to lend its voice to this beautiful song: equality of women in mining.
Equalise women for sustainable development
Melanie Chiponda, from the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, said women in mining remain marginalised; however, she says the promotion of women’s participation will stimulate sustainable development.
“Mining is . . . one of the sectors that have been identified as the key drivers to growth and employment creation. Gender equality and equity are crucial for broad-based inclusive and sustainable development and growth.
“Broad-based sustainable development is a holistic approach to development that goes beyond the narrow goal of economic growth. It (broad-based sustainable development) incorporates economic development, environmental sustainability and includes the full range of social, cultural and political factors,” said Chiponda.
“Often, sustainable development is primarily viewed as environmental sustainability. This narrow view pushes gender concerns to the periphery and purports to concentrate on social, economic and ecological dimensions.
“Achieving gender equality is crucial to the achievement of sustainable development. Gender roles are socially constructed, but most gender-based disparities exist to disadvantage women, thus impeding their development and that of humankind,” she said.
Women in mining marginalised
According to Chiponda, women struggle to make an impact in large scale mining and end up settling for small-scale and artisanal mining.
“The reality in the mining sector is that women have continued to be marginalised. Women make up only 2% of the mining labour force. In artisanal and small scale mining (ASM), women constitute 50% of the people participating in this sector in Zimbabwe.
“Women tend to participate in artisanal and small scale mining because it is mostly informal and easy to enter than the formal mining sector, and it takes place within their local areas where they can combine their gender roles within the household, whilst at the same time contributing for women. However, there has been reluctance to recognise ASM activities as contributing towards poverty alleviation at micro level as it is carried out as a subsistence activity.
“A lot of women . . . have taken advantage of the opportunities offered in ASM to fulfill their social and economic needs, and they seem to be doing better than when they perform the traditional land-based economic activities like land cultivation and livestock rearing,” says Chiponda.
Challenges women in mining face
Besides the women’s marginalisation in mining, they have to also bear with an industry that is littered with many challenges, challenges that expose their vulnerability.
“Though women in the ASM sector in Zimbabwe face a myriad of challenges, which range from working under unhealthy and unsafe conditions, to harassment and bullying by colleagues and law enforcement agents, there is a genuine need . . . to promote women’s participation in ASM.
“The challenges faced by women in this sector hinder them from achieving their full capacity and contributing towards the country’s sustainable socio-economic development agenda. Women continue to be underrepresented in the political, social and economic decision making arenas.
“The marginalisation of women increases their vulnerability and is attributed to female poverty. There is, therefore, need for a sustainable development route that is committed to gender equality and which seeks to promote women’s capabilities,” she said.
Solution . . .
ASM is estimated to employ more than 500 000 people, of which 50% are women.
Chiponda says gender sensitive legislation is key if women in mining can contribute towards increased family income, reduce poverty levels and attain broad-based sustainable development, Chiponda said there was need to enact gender sensitive legislation.
“The Mines and Mineral legislation should be gender sensitive through including gender issues, that is, those issues that affect women in the sector due to their biological make up and gender roles.
“Therefore, the legislation should distinctly address women’s issues so that the law addresses the needs of women.
“Policy and legislation in the mining sector should have affirmative action measures and a quota system in order to address the gender disparities that exist in the ownership of mining concessions and Titles.
” . . . To promote environmental protection and management in the ASM by women participating in the sector, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) protocols should be simplified and designed for the ASM sector as well.
“It should not be applicable to the large scale miners only. It should address all the major risks in the sector including the risks associated with women in the ASM sector, but in a clear and simple way,” said Chiponda.