According to UN Millennium Declaration, “Men and women have the same right to live
their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and fear of violence, oppression or injustice”. Women’s rights are universal human rights and are protected by international human rights conventions (Hemmati and Gardiner, 2002).
The mining industry has been called the last bastion of exclusive male employment with women’s participation in the industry limited to work as above ground staff. While some progress has been made, women working underground are very much a novelty in the country and its also be consider as the proud moment for every nation. The historical gendered roles played by men and women have remained by and large quite traditional. While men have entered the mine workplaces, women have remained in the domestic spheres. Men have been bread winners, while women have been responsible for maintaining the family. Moving from such traditional and relatively static gender roles, into a space where women and men can be seen as people of equal worth and dignity, equal workers and earners, is a big step away from the conception of male breadwinner and female household maintainer and the economical development of every country.
While women have never been forbidden from working above ground, the number of women employed under and above ground has traditionally been low. Over the years with changes in government policy, discriminatory laws forbidding women to work
underground have been repealed, and women are now free to work underground, but very few women are indeed working underground.
Attitudes to women in mining can be best understood if we quote the views of some women who are directly related to mining sector (Ranchod, 1997):Rita Mittal of the Association of the Zambian Women Miners, formed in 1996 says, “We face a lot of rejection and we are not taken seriously by people in the field. There are a lot of traditional obstacles along the way. Chiefs feel undermined when they see women coming to mine in their areas. They are hostile”.
“In certain instances, cultural norms say that women are not supposed to go into the mines. There are some myths that if a woman goes underground, the stones (minerals) will disappear”, Namakau Kaingu, a miner in Zambia opines.
Most large-scale private mining industries are highly mechanized and technology intensive which exclude women’s participation in the workforce. If mining must take place, women from the affected communities should have equal opportunity for employment as the men since they equally lose their lands and traditional livelihoods when the mines come.
By: Manjeet Singh Bhullar
Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Mining Engineering
Earth Summit (2002): Gender Equity and Sustainable Development. Social Briefing paper No. 2, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Johannesburg.
Hemmati, M and Gardiner, R (2002): Gender and Sustainable Development, A Briefing Paper, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Johannesburg.
Labour and Women in Mining, www.minesandcommunities.org/mineral/women4.htm
Ranchod Sarita (2001): Mining Minerals Sustainable Development, Research Topic 3: Mining and Society, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship, South Africa.