Gender and mining program works to address women issues in the mining sector by encouraging women to make inroads into male-dominated mining sector despite challenges. The program is working towards women access to business finance on equal bases with men, communities that address discrimination, intimidation and violence against women in mining communities as well as safe and hygienic work places for women..
Women comprise 40% of the people engaged in the Tanzanian ASM sector, despite being barred from underground activities by mining regulations. Mining is an industry, which has always been male-dominated, regardless of geographical location. There have been positive steps that have helped to integrate women into the industry, but females continue to be under-represented and mining is still largely a man’s domain. The mining sector has had a poor record in attracting and promoting women. In part, this is understandable: historically, mining was a male-dominated industry that required physical strength. The skills needed in the mining sector today have changed dramatically, but mindsets have taken longer to shift. Women, as much as men, have needed persuading that mining is an attractive sector with lots to offer. Today’s list of inspiring women in mining shows that real progress is being made. There are now multiple role models who prove that women can and do succeed in building interesting and rewarding careers in mining.
Regardless of some improvement of women participating and benefiting from the mining sector, still women in this industry face exploitation, gender and maternity based work place discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation and physical assault, exclusion from formal education, oppressive traditional practices, and exposure to dangerous, unhygienic or toxic environmental conditions.
Development of ASM operations provides financial opportunities to women in neighboring communities; (for example through the sale of support services such as food, water or laundry services to miners) as well as in the mines. However, these opportunities are often accompanied by a high risk of robbery, sexual harassment, and assault both around the mine sites and while travel between the mines and their homes. Women working within or providing support services to mine sites, tend to work in the open and have little or no protection from exposure to the weather. In many sites, a lack of toilets and sanitation infrastructure leads to open defecation practices, spread of disease, and increased exposure to assault. The nature of women’s roles in artisanal mining operation tends to expose them to higher levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals than men. The mercury used in gold separation has a pronounced impact on women and unborn babies, including neurological birth defects because of exposure to mercury during pregnancy.
Culture and traditional practices contribute to and exacerbate these problems, as wider attitudes both directly and indirectly contribute to the exploitation and mistreatment of women. Broadly held views and attitudes towards women, including that women are inferior to men, and are suited only to marriage or providing services to men, lead to the acceptance of the mistreatment and poor conditions for women. Viewing women and girls as unworthy of education, or as not having the right to independently own property, run a business, or earn money restricts their ability to successfully engage in the sector and business activities and leaves them further open to exploitation.
HakiMadini in collaboration with Mokoro through WOLTS project have shared some strategies through various training with a goal of encouraging and strengthening women’s participation in the mining sector. These strategies included but not limited to
WOLTS project during training sessions worked hard to make these communities believe that when women are engaged in the mining sector and in different project initiatives, women’s empowerment increases. Also safe access to mining activities acts as a source of empowerment by increasing women’s economic security and their control over household decisions.