There is need for policy reforms to allow more women in artisanal mining and supply value chain to get meaningful benefits like their male counterparts, researchers have said.
The researchers were commenting on a new report about various challenges faced by women in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector.
The study, backed by IMPACT (formerly Partnership Africa Canada), Canada’s Carleton University, among other partners, and released in Kigali on Wednesday, shows that despite a standardised pay structure for mining roles, women still generally earn less than their male counterparts for the same work.
The research was conducted over a three-year period.
The survey explored women’s livelihoods in the artisanal mining of 3Ts (tin, tantalum, tungsten) and gold in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda.
Through participant observation, surveys, focus groups, life histories, and interviews, the project studied dynamics at two mines in Rwanda — a tungsten mine in Northern Province and a tin/tantalum mine in Southern Province, according to Gisèle Eva Côté, the coordinator of the research in DR Congo and Rwanda for IMPACT. “Our research shows that women have an important contribution to the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. But they also face many barriers that need to be addressed,” she said.
On average, in Southern Province, men diggers and ore transporters earn $124.67 and $137.87 respectively, while women working in ore transportation and in panning earn $89.96 $ and $101.56, respectively.
In Northern Province, men diggers and panners earn $70.16 and $69.89 (in panning) while women panners and washers earn $48.90 and $46.78.
In the two regions, women are largely limited or excluded altogether from mining activities with higher earning potential, including digging and sluicing, according to the report.
It is difficult for women to acquire the experience and skills necessary to move up to more senior roles, including leadership positions, researchers said.
In Southern Province, 39 per cent of men work in mining and 29 per cent of them carry ore, while 70 per cent of women in the south do transportation and 3 per cent do panning.
In the north, 49 per cent of men are diggers with 63 per cent panners, while 75 per cent of women are panners with 21 per cent working in washing (sluicing).
Speaking at the event, Francis Gatare, the chief executive of the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, said that the findings came at an opportune time when mining policy reforms are being undertaken.
He said the recommendations will be taken into consideration so as to change the conditions of women in mining sector.
The study indicates that women who go into mining tunnels, for example, are vilified as “lacking good manners.”
Women are also thought to be incapable of sluicing at the Southern Province site because they are not experienced or strong enough, yet some women do perform these roles, the report shows.
Other challenges highlighted include difficulty in accessing credit from banks for women because they require their husbands’ consent.
The husbands’ consent, according to the researchers can be difficult for the women to secure, while high service fees also limit women’s access to banking services.
Without access to credit, women are unable to invest in mining activities as subcontractors, which would allow them to move from subsistence to accumulation activities, the researchers said.
Despite these challenges, the study says, rural women who are in mining are more empowered than those who are in farming or livestock activities.
On average, women in artisanal mining make more than twice the income from other income generating activities.
This income is a significant source of revenue for many households, the report said.
Up to 72 per cent of women surveyed in Southern Province contribute to at least half of households’ income while 30 per cent of them are sole bread winners for their families.
At least 71 of women surveyed in Northern Province contribute to at least half of their households’ income with 38 per cent of them being the sole bread winners for their households.