Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association ZELA 0

Promote decent work for women in mining

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We, the women in Artisanal and Small-scale mining (ASM) are operating as informal economy players in a sector which cannot be termed “decent” compared to recognized, protected, secure, formal employment.

We are aware of the ability of ASM to offer income, propel economic growth, and create employment despite its high degree of informality. This alone shows its remarkable potential. If properly formalized it can result more productive while creating decent work opportunities for women who are key actors in the sector. As women in mining, we note that the ASM sector is a critical livelihood sector for thousands of Zimbabweans. However, there exist a cocktail of challenges that hinder realisation of decent work in the sector. Many of these originate from the common informality of ASM operations, including absence of technical and financial support for miners.

We are deeply concerned that, the challenge of machete gangs is also discouraging and hindering our full participation in the sector. As ASM workers, our experiences within the sector are gendered: cultural beliefs around women, as well as gendered constraints to access and control over resources concentrate us women in lower paid and often more hazardous tasks in the sector – which itself may constitute a form of socio-economic violence.

We play significant roles as women in mining, but we remain largely invisible in the data on ASM. Case studies show that, we make up significant portions of the ASM workforce and suffer from specific forms of workplace discrimination. Adverse side effects of mercury use, unequal pay for similar work, sexual harassment, and limited access to land or mining titles are some of the ways in which our decent work outcomes are hampered.

To ensure decent work and sustainable economic growth, we all must take action as clearly laid in Sustainable Goal 8 which seeks to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

We rally behind the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and its constituents who note that that decent work is a goal, not a standard, to be achieved progressively. A progressive approach would imply starting with the informal end, where most new job creation in recent years has been taking place and promoting the transition upwards along the continuum towards the formal, decent and protected end. This would also be part and parcel of a decent work approach to poverty reduction.

To achieve decent work and reduce poverty both in the immediate and in the longer term, our government and development partners need to tackle the root causes – and not just the negative manifestations – of informality and informalization. Measures to improve the work environment, tackle gendered violence, labour rights, enhance social protection, invest in knowledge and skills of ASM players especially women or provide micro-entrepreneurs with access to credit and other support services are all critical in dealing with the manifestations of informality.

Therefore, we urgently appeal to the Government of Zimbabwe to act on the following:

  • The national government and law enforcement agents need to urgently come up with a clear roadmap with specified actions to tackle gender-based violence in the mining sector, aligned to comprehensive national strategies to prevent and respond to violence in the sector in all its forms especially the violence resulting from machete gangs.
  • Ensure that laws and Policies are aligned to the Constitution of Zimbabwe to ensure that aspects of gender discrimination and exploitation of women are addressed in keeping with sections 17 and 56 of the Constitution.
  • Increase access to funding for women small scale miners and establish an emergency relief funding for women in the ASM sector while ensuring that information regarding women empowerment initiatives are readily available. This includes making sure that processes to obtain loans are not rigorous. Because of the historical and structural barriers that exists, most women do not own land thus they are not able to get loans without their partners who will be acting as guarantors.
  • Introduce affirmative action provisions like quota system for women claims in all mining communities as a measure to promote full participation of women in the mining sector.
  • Address corruption in the issuance of mining claims.
  • Government through the Ministry of Women Affairs needs to establish a fund to support small scale women miners in Zimbabwe. As the COVID- 19 pandemic persists, it is imperative that Government provides social protection to support women so that they can be able to buy Personal Protective Equipment and other required materials for them to meet guidelines and requirements to operate during the lockdown which they had not anticipated.
  • Provide mentoring support and guidance to aspiring women miners. Mining is a technical and very demanding sector and requires one to have all the necessary support and information to venture into it. Due to the historical gender imbalances, women have always been struggling to get access to information on general social-economic issues. It is therefore important for the government and other stakeholders to improve access to information to aspiring women miners through continuous mentoring and support.
  • Put in place an enabling legal framework and ensure that laws such as the Mines and Minerals Act are urgently reviewed to accommodate the needs and aspirations of women in mining including formalising the ASM sector.


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