Women in the small scale and artisanal mining sector have decried the unlevel playing field in the lucrative sector, saying their participation is still limited despite contributing significantly to the overall gold production in the country.
Gender inequality is rife in the mining sector, with the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Council, estimating that of the 500 000 artisanal miners in the country, 153 000 of them are women and children.
Speaking during a sustainable mining workshop organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Wednesday, Nomuhle Ncube said women miners still facing a number of challenges including physical abuse.
“As women in the gold mining sector we are experiencing a number of challenges such as dispossession of our mining claims,” said Ncube.
“It is also unfortunate that the government does not have the resources to explore the minerals in the country a situation that has seen many women in my area lose all the minerals to the foreign companies that come and explore on behalf of the government.”
Ncube said women miners are “an important cornerstone to the mining sector but our challenges remain unrecognized due to gender barriers”.
Apart from losing mining claims, Ncube added that there are many challenges being faced by small-scale mining women in Bubi.
“Due to gender gaps in the mining sector women do not have access to capital funding. Without the money we are not able to purchase the right equipment for mining hence we end up going into partnership with men who end up exploiting our gold,” she said.
She added that the shortage of foreign currency has seen some women close their operations, as they cannot buy equipment, fuel and pay their employees who demand payment in foreign currency.
Ncube appealed to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to come up with measures that will curb the rampant abuse of women in the sector
“Women are being harassed in the bushes by men who sometimes sexually abuse them, steal their gold and this has been worsened by the fact that nothing happens to those men even after reporting them,” narrated Ncube.
Meanwhile, another small-scale miner Nicole Hove said women should come up with their own solutions to protect themselves.
“As women in the mining sector we have to come together and form consultancy companies so that we avoid being robbed of our mining claims and our resources,” said Hove.
“I have done it and it has worked, you just need a lawyer, accountant and human resource management person and that should not be a problem because we have so many unemployed students from the universities”.
A report on Women in Mining (UK) by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) showed that women comprise only 10 percent of the global mining workforce.