Research findings show low women participation in mining sector, Rwanda government commits to eliminating barriers

By Olga Ishimwe
On 6 December 2017 at 05:51

The Government of Rwanda is committed to eliminating barriers that have been standing in the way of emancipating and empowering women and holding them back from participating in national development programmes, the Rwanda Mines Board Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Francis Gatare has said.

Gatare who was giving a key note address during the presentation of findings of a three-year research project on “Women in Artisanal and Small Scale Mining in Central and East Africa: Empowerment Challenges and Possibilities,” noted that a number of barriers that hinder women participation in the mining sector are rooted in traditional subjugation of women rights, a practice that Rwanda has unwaveringly worked to eliminate.

"Although Rwanda is a country that puts emphasis on gender equality, where situation analysis is regularly conducted to identify gender gaps and propose affirmative action to fill them; We are conscious that we still have a long way to go to reach equal footing in all sectors. Nevertheless, we are confident that we shall make changes given time and hard work, " he said.

The three-year research project led by IMPACT (formerly Partnership Africa Canada), Canada’s Carleton University, the Development Research and Social Policy Analysis Centre (DRASPAC) and Women in/and Mining Organisation (WIAMO), explored women’s livelihoods in the artisanal mining of 3Ts (tin, tantalum, tungsten) and gold within Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda.

During a conference held today, 6th December, researchers presented their research findings on the challenges women face in the artisanal and small scale mining sector and opportunities for their empowerment.

Policymakers from the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, Ministries of Local Government, Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, women and men miners, private sector, and civil society were taken through how gender inequality limits women’s contribution in the artisanal and small scale mining sector and their potential as economic and social actors.

Gisèle Eva Côté, the Coordinator of the research, observed that challenges faced by women in the artisanal mining sector cannot be ignored as they have an important contribution to the sector.

“There are mindsets, patriarchal norms and cultural lag that hold back women’s full participation in Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM); even though surveyed women describe the the job as "good and satisfying" and only seek improved work conditions.”

Among different barriers observed during the research, women’s voices are not represented in the country’s mining laws and policies. Women also face inequality at the mine sites—preventing them from taking on higher paying tasks or more senior positions. Women told researchers that their technical capacity and strength have been questioned due to their gender.

Researchers recommend supporting women’s access to credit, which would allow entrepreneurial activities at the mine sites.

IMPACT—formerly Partnership Africa Canada— an independent non-profit, collaborating with local partners for lasting change, transforms how natural resources are managed in areas where security and human rights are at risk, investigate and develop approaches for natural resources to improve security, development, and equality.

Among the key findings, on average, women make more than two times the income from artisanal mining per month than in other income generating activities and 72% of women surveyed in Southern Province contribute to at least half of the household’s income and 30% of these women are sole income earners, while 71% of women surveyed in Northern province contribute to at least half of the household ‘s income and 38% are the sole income earners.

Others are; despite a standardized pay structure for mining roles, women still tend to earn less than men; in both sites studied, women are largely limited/excluded from mining activities with higher earning potential, including digging and sluicing.

The report also indicates that women have difficulty accessing credit from banks because they require their husbands’ permission. “This permission, we were told, can be difficult for the women to secure, and high service fees further limit women’s access to banking services. Without access to credit, women are unable to invest in mining activities as subcontractors, a position which would allow them to move from subsistence to accumulation activities, “ reads part of the report.

Robinson Mugisha from MIGEPROF(left) with Rwanda Mines Board Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Francis Gatare (center) and the Coordinator of the research, Gisèle Eva Côté