The piece “Women dominate artisanal mining ventures” featured below was initially published in Malawi’s Mining Review Issue Number 20 2014 that was circulated in December 2014. This is the final edition for 2014.
The symposium to review Malawi’s draft Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Policy mentioned in this piece was also covered here.
The full edition of the Mining Review can be read here: Mining Review No. 20 December 2014
To learn more about this quarterly publication, edited by Marcel Chimwala, read the post about the “Voice of the mineral sector in Malawi”.
Women dominate artisanal mining ventures
By Mining Reporter
It was evident at the symposium for the formulation of the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) Policy in Lilongwe that women in the country have emerged as a dominant pillar in the sector.
In addition to women representatives from the mother body, the Malawi Women in Mining (MAWIMA), throngs of women from a number of cooperatives from across the country dominated the event, which they said marked a new beginning for the ASM subsector in Malawi.
You will notice that we have a large proportion of small scale women miners at this function because the women miners expect the government to bring answers to the problems that they face through the new policy,
said President for Malawi Women in Mining (MAWIMA) Mrs. Emma Adam.
Adam observed that the problems that the small-scale miners are encountering include lack of a stable market for the products and inability to access financial support to boost their businesses.
We hope through this policy, the Government will address these challenges. Given an opportunity, women in mining can use their majority advantage to help government in its job creation and poverty reduction initiative,
Malawian women miners are, among other activities involved in the mining of gemstone, gypsum, limestone, gold panning, rock aggregate crushing and sand mining.
The women miners in the ASM subsector are also able to produce lime, chalk, plates, flower baskets and insulators.
Women miners are able to produce products of international quality but what is required is meaningful Government support that will enable them access capital, use modern equipment and get exposed to the international market,
The MAWIMA President also touched on the need for the Government to address the issue of HIV/Aids, which is a threat to the operations of small-scale miners who are always at risk when conducting their operations especially in fields away from their spouses.
At the function, the Government presented copies of the draft National Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Policy to the small scale miners, who were expected to draft in their input through the deliberations at the symposium.
The draft policy has clauses that are expected to guide the Government in addressing issues of gender and other social issues associated with ASM.
In the Policy, the Government admits that women in the ASM subsector face more challenges than men and lists the challenges as difficulties in accessing financial, technical and legal support, social-economic perceptions about their status, and unfair cultural traditions that impose a heavy family burden and limit their independence and mobility.
Government says the Policy will encourage equal participation in the ASM subsector in order to overcome the challenges faced by women in their operations.
The Ministry of Gender and Child Development shall work on the barriers that block women participation in ASM and other broader gender issues in the industry,
states the Policy Document.
In the Policy, the Government also admits that HIV/Aids remains a key challenge in the area of health within the context of the ASM.
It concurs with Mrs. Adam that artisanal and small scale miners tend to engage in risky behavior due to the nature of their activities which involve working away from their sexual partners over an extended period of time.
States the Policy:
In addition, young women or mothers struggling to earn a living tend to get involved in sex trade and prostitution to support themselves and their families. As a consequence of these social challenges, HIV/Aids is a growing concern in all small scale mining communities.
Furthermore, low literacy levels have also contributed to the rise in HIV/Aids cases because relevant and sufficient information is not clearly understood. It is generally noted that their normal traditional values is also a challenge because most of them are not open to HIV/Aids issues-they treat HIV/Aids issues as private and confidential matters.
The Government says in the draft policy that in recognition of the fact that in the ASM subsector, there is inadequate awareness of HIV/Aids as well as stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/Aids, the policy will facilitate HIV/Aids awareness campaigns and training in HIV/Aids.
The draft policy also tackles child labour as one of the problems prevalent is the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining subsector.
Experience has shown that Artisanal and Small Scale Miners prefer employing children as they do not have a bargaining power for wages. The presence of children in the mining sites also has negative effects on their health and education,
states the Policy.
It says in order to address the situation, the Government will enforce regulations against child labour and abuse, facilitate sensitisation and awareness campaigns about child labour issues, and provide more educational infrastructure in remote areas where ASM activities are taking place.
The Ministry of Labour will be responsible for the regulation of involvement and employment of children in the ASM subsector.