Eye on Malawi’s Extractives: How can women’s participation in mining improve?

2017-09 Participation of men and women in mining.png

Eye on Malawi's Extractives Rachel Etter-Phoya

How can women’s participation in mining improve?

By Rachel Etter-Phoya

The Sustainable Development Goals, the Africa Mining Vision, and our own national development strategies and policies promote gender equality and inclusion, yet in practice, particularly in the mining sector, woman’s participation remains limited.

In a bid to understand how practitioners and policy makers can ‘increase the participation and empowerment of women working in the mining sector’, Adam Smith International and International Women in Mining looked at Malawi and Sierra Leone’s mining laws and interviewed diverse stakeholders in the sector. Released in May 2017, the study makes a series of recommendations and describes enabling factors that could positively affect women’s involvement in mining.

The case studies show that women work across the value chain and are more represented in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. Women also bear more of the adverse impacts of mining projects which ultimately hinders their agency, mobility and ability to generate an income.

For women working in the sector, ‘there are clear constraints around their access to opportunities and resources and their agency to act on current opportunities’ (p.48). At present, there is no fully costed business case for women working in the mining sector so this is one of the key recommendations that emerge from the study.

A number of recommendations centre around the role legislation can play:

  1. Simplify the formation process of mining cooperatives and associations and provide accessible guidance to interested parties through mineral agency offices, websites and social media.
  2. Ensure women have a voice in community consultations, resettlement and compensation through mining sector regulations that mandate their equal and meaningful participation; and ensure legislative language does not inadvertently prohibit women from receiving compensation.
  3. Specify and implement quotas at a legal and regulatory level to support the participation and entry of women into the sector. For example, in local content requirements and mining companies, especially for senior and operational level positions, as well as for educational bursaries, training, and programmes.
  4. Extend mining health and safety regulations to specify work places that are suitable for women and to safeguard women from harassment or violence.
  5. Require government departments, agencies and companies within the mining industry to record and publish data that is disaggregated by gender. For example the number of women and men employed the roles that they fill, and their average salaries.

The researchers also suggest that monitoring mechanisms are required to ensure implementation and compliance with provisions aimed at supporting women. Cross government working groups will ensure the mainstreaming and alignment of provisions on gender and women in mining. Women in Mining associations could be further supported, such as through educational institutions, so that they are better placed to represent women, hold companies and government accountable and establish mentoring networks for women working in the sector.

For these interventions to be successful, government and the private sector need to lead the way and demonstrate willingness, the approach must be bottom up and top down, coordination between government departments including non-mining institutions must be well managed, both men and women need to participate in change processes, and commitment must be over a long period as challenging norms will not happen overnight and goes beyond the mining sector.

If you are interested to learn more, take a look at ‘Women in mining: can a mining law unlock the potential of women?’ (Rickard, S., Treasure, W., McQuilken, J., Mihaylova, A., Baxter, J.; Adam Smith and International Women in Mining): http://internationalwim.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ASI-IWiM-2017-Can-a-mining-law-unlock-the-potential-of-women_FINAL_08_….pdf.


This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 53 (September 2017).

The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.


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