- September 2, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
In celebration of women’s month.
From the moment a woman decides to venture into any field dominated by her male counterparts, she faces relentless pressure to prove her worth, her capabilities, and her position. She is required to do more and move that extra mile so that she is deemed capable and competent. This however comes in at a time when the world is pushing for gender equality in all walks of life, be it in the household, the community, or at work. Mining is no exception as there are various challenges stemming out from gender disparities in the workplace. So, the big question then comes in, how can a woman contribute as much to mining regardless of her gender for the industry’s sustainable development?
By Tanyaradzwa Makotore
Friday the 21st of August marked the beginning of a three-day online conference targeting women in mining. It was hosted by a student from the Midlands State University named Tanyaradzwa Makotore. Her audience mostly comprised of students in mining-related disciplines i.e. mining engineering, metallurgical engineering, surveying, geology, and many others. The objective of the workshop was to educate these women on key challenges that are faced in the industry, opportunities available to them as well as how best they can be actively involved in artisanal and small-scale mining.
Mrs. Njike, a surveyor from ZIMASCO, gave the first presentation and her topic was “Key challenges facing women in mining and the solutions to these challenges”. She divided the challenges into three main groups which are self, colleagues, and environment.
“Self”, was the term she used to describe the intra-personal struggles a woman goes through before joining the industry. Having low self-esteem, for example, results in one pulling herself down and not allowing herself to blossom to the fullest potential. Low self-esteem affects decision making as well as service delivery. Mrs. Njike advised women to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take up the challenges of the industry. Another challenge that most women find themselves in is that of their physique. Naturally, our bodies retaliate to a mounted pressure against them. In Mrs. Njike’s words she says, “the first time I went up a chain ladder, I got so scared but I had to pull myself together and with time I found myself adjusting. Be the kind of woman who works hard, so gentle and yet so strong. Do not get into the industry because you want to prove a point. Work in such a way that you don’t push yourself to the edge and end up sick!”
Being a woman in a male-dominated environment sometimes draws disrespect from male colleagues. This disrespect can come in the form of foul language or sexual advances. Mrs. Njike spoke about how sometimes in the industry a woman can find herself in a situation whereby she receives romantic proposals from her workmates or bosses in return for promotions or pay raise. To counteract this challenge, she advised that women not flirt with their male colleagues or wear revealing clothes that might convey the wrong message and put them in difficult positions. She stressed that the way one carries oneself attracts a certain degree of respect from all around.
The mining environment can be a torrid place for a woman to be. From the amount of work to the surroundings, it requires dedication and strength so that one is able to take up this challenge. One of the biggest challenges is of ablutions. Sometimes when working underground, they might be located at a distance from where you are working. Unlike for the males, a woman’s biology makes it difficult for her to relieve herself anywhere, and at the end of the day she has to either hold or move that long distance to relieve herself. According to Mrs. Njike, as a woman who has taken it upon herself to join this industry, one should be prepared for such challenges and work with what is available while pushing for changes that suit her biology.
The mining environment again comprises of long shift hours and sometimes night shifts. It can be therefore a challenge for a woman to balance her work and her home. However, this does not mean a woman cannot balance it all. It just requires extra effort and commitment for it has been proven that when a woman sets her sights on something, she strives to achieve it. In conclusion, Mrs. Njike encouraged women of all ages to join the mining industry, for that’s where the money is and everyone should follow the money for the betterment of their livelihoods.
The second speaker on the 22nd of August was Tanyaradzwa Makotore and she was standing in for the chairperson of Women in Rural Mining Zimbabwe, who unfortunately could not make it on the day. Her topic was, “Opportunities for women in mining: How can women contribute to the industry for its sustainable development?” The first area she spoke about was small scale mining. A woman can create opportunities for herself by getting a claim which she rents out to miners for a certain percentage of income. In this way, she is not directly going underground herself but still making money.
The other potential area of investment in service provision. This can be in the form of crushers, grinders, leaching tanks, pumps, compressors, etc. This machinery she hires out to miners again for a certain fee and makes money. However, these are capital intensive projects which are quite difficult for a graduate to pursue. For starters, a graduate or even a student can visit mines and try to identify problems they are facing in terms of their output and try to do some RESEARCH on ways to curb these problems. In return, she can get paid for her research and earn some income. One should be careful however that their research is not stolen from them by getting patents to protect their information. This ensures that even if some other mine wants to use their research, they pay.
Another area of interest is consultancy. Being a graduate one obviously has information on certain aspects of the mining industry. She can then use this to her advantage and advise small scale miners on decisions while getting paid for it. However, as with any other industry, the experience is the best teacher. Before offering any advice, acquire the necessary experience so as to be able to deliver the right solutions. You might end up creating a bad reputation for yourself by offering the wrong advice.
Creating partnerships is one other way of integrating into the mining industry. Such partnerships can be used to raise funding for building metallurgical labs, acquiring claims, and buying machinery. If one ever decides to get a loan, they should be sure that they are able to pay it back because mining is a risky industry.
The final presentation of the conference was done by Dadirai Mbalaka, the vice president of the Young Miners Foundation. This was on the 23rd of August. Her topic was, “Women in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: With the reduced job offers in Zimbabwe, how can women become actively involved in small scale mining?”. To start off, she defined a small scale/ artisanal miner as a subsistence miner not officially employed by a mining company but working independently. According to statistics, in Zimbabwe there are over 500 000 ASM miners, 40-50% are women. With the current economic situation in the country, employment levels are quite low but women face a more torrid time to get jobs as there are still being marginalised in the industry. The mining industry however has a lot to offer in terms of job creation and as a source of wealth.
To achieve success in this industry, one should look at the whole cycle of mining i.e. from exploration to consumption. Women are encouraged to form small corporations or syndicates of around 5-12 people. Through these syndicates, savings can be created from which claims are purchased. An example is of the Mthandazo Women’s Mining Association based in Gwanda which came together and sourced funding. To date, each individual owns at least three claims. In her words Dadirai says, “I strongly urge all the women who would want to venture into mining as a business, to register and regularise their operations which enables them to have access to loans and possibly equipment that opens up opportunities”. There are organisations such as WILSA (Women in Law in Southern Africa) which provide education and outreach to ensure women in the extractive industry understand the legal framework of mining. Before one decides to take a loan, it is encouraged that they do thorough research. This is because you might end up finding it difficult to pay up. Dadirai encouraged women to take the minimum amount possible as a loan and to always have a backup plan because as the 2nd speaker said, mining is a risky industry. There are banks such as the Zimbabwe Women’s Bank and the Youth Empowerment Bank which have reasonable rates of return. Recently, the Zimbabwe Youth Council rolled out funding in support of small projects.
In conclusion, Dadirai encouraged women to join women’s mining programs. There are a number of organisations that are seeing the value of women in mining such as Togabless as well the Young Miners Foundation which host various seminars and assist women with legal advice and environmental advice so that they can penetrate the market.
As a student and potential woman in mining, I encourage women out there to take up the challenge!
Tanya Makotore is a Student at the Midlands State Univesity, she can be contacted on [email protected]