ALTHOUGH men in Tanzania have for a long time predominated Tanzania’s booming mining sector, things have now started changing as women too have joined the fray, thanks to ongoing public awareness. More and more women now participate in small-scale mining.
They are no longer mere spectators as they used to be in the past, leaving everything to be done or run by men, says Ms Loyce Lema, the Executive Director of the Environmental Human Rights Care and Gender Organisation (Envirocare) based in Makongo Juu, Dar es Salaam.
She asserts that an increase in the number of women’s participation in small-scale mining is attributed to Envirocare’s advocacy project (August 2019- July 2020) funded by Women Fund Tanzania –Trust (WFT).
Entitled ‘Advocacy of Women’s Rights and Environmental Justice in the Extractive Industries in Tanzania’, the project sought to address four key areas. The first was the advocacy of women’s rights to have a say in decisionmaking processes and in solving problems facing women from local to national level.
The second was the sensitisation of women and men miners, and local leaders on environmental protection, the Mining Policy and the Mining Act and the negative effects of dangerous chemicals used in mining activities on humans and the environment. The third was the creation of networks for women who work in the mining sector, and finally the fourth was the public awareness of health and safety issues and the reversal of environmental degradation.
Positive results have been realised in each of the four areas. Project beneficiaries included women, girls and men in Mererani Ward in Simanjiro District, Gendab Ward in Hanang District, Manyara Region, Matundasi and Makongolosi wards in Chunya District, Mbeya Region, and in Buzwagi, and Mwime wards in Kahama District, Shinyanga Region. More specifically, women miners in those areas have set up their own networks that link them.
Five women’s groups have been established - two in Chunya District, Mbeya Region, two in Simanjiro and Hanang districts, Manyara Region, and one in Kahama District, Shinyanga Region.
All of them are in various stages of registration so that they may operate legally. The group in Makongolosi Ward in Mbeya Region has been further split into two groups and requested the local government to set aside a mining area for them, and are in the process of surveying it to ascertain whether it has mineral deposits.
The one in Matundasi Ward in Mbeya Region has also acquired land and plans to start mining gold. This has motivated other women to join and form more groups and utilise various mining opportunities found in their areas and this forward looking trend will have a positive impact on Tanzanian women in terms of self-employment, job creation and participation in decision-making processes.
According to Ms Lema, local government leaders have cooperated very well with the women groups in the three regions to ensure that women participate too not only in mining, but also in owning mines, and this has made a significant difference in their lives.
Their networks will help protect their rights, enable them to speak with one voice on issues that concern them and in small-scale mining’s decisionmaking processes. There is also legal education empowerment to ensure they operate within legal bounds and know how to claim and protect their rights whenever ownership disputes arise.
“The project, which aimed at improving equal gender participation and the sustainable use of natural resources in gold, salt and tanzanite mines in the three regions of Mainland Tanzania, has resulted in tremendous success in project areas. This means that many women lack the know-how to engage in productive smallscale mining. This is what we, as Envirocare, discovered during the implementation of this project,’’ said Project Manager Amos Mbwambo.
On the other hand, besides small-scale mining, women show an entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness and provide services in restaurants, guest houses and recreation centres.
Therefore, their contribution to this booming sector and the country’s economy in general cannot be underestimated. Their participation in smallscale mining puts them at a greater chance of success and breaks a chain of considerable dependence on men in financial matters.
Basically, it translates into this: the more women assert themselves and do something on their own initiatives to utilise available opportunities, the more their prospects with their businesses will be.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been particularly supportive of this idea whenever she had an opportunity to talk to various women’s groups in the country, as she does not want women to lag behind in development projects, self-employment and job creation and in matters that concern them.
Nevertheless, engaging in mining activities is difficult and at the same time dangerous. Superstitious beliefs that abound in almost all mining communities pose a big challenge to them, low mining technology that results in the collapse of mines and in losses of lives is also a major issue of concern. Women miners live and raise their children in areas that are detrimental to children’s welfare.
As a result, there is child labour and child abuse, and the use of dangerous chemicals in mining processes pose health risks. Lack of capital, lack of modern equipment and protective gear and incidents of gender discrimination as well as adverse effects of climate change do not bode well for their mining activities.
It is in light of all this that Envirocare saw a need to raise the awareness of women to engage in environmentally-friendly, safe and productive mining activities.
Envirocare is a non-profit making, non-partisan and nongovernmental registered organisation founded in 1993. It envisages a society with a clean and safe environment that can benefit all citizens equally and in a sustainable manner, and its mission is to promote and support environmental conservation and livelihoods with a gender, human rights based and participatory approach through advocacy, capacity building and action-based research.