Madam Suweibatu Adam, the Director for Human Resources at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ghana, has called for intensified advocacy for the recognition, support, and inclusion of women working within the mining sector.
She said the immense contributions of these women towards the socio-economic development of nations, ought to receive the needed acknowledgement, protective policies and funding support, to enable them to expand their businesses, most of which were artisanal and small-scale mining.
Madam Adam made the call at a hybrid of an in-person and online meeting organised by the Women in Mining Ghana (WIM-Ghana), in collaboration with the Women in Mining West Africa (WIMOWA) for the members in the Sub-region, as part of activities under the Gender Mainstreaming Project (GMP) supported by the Ford Foundation.
Madam Adam encouraged the various country Associations to frequently publicise their activities and draw public attention to the performances, roles and progress of women in the sector, and advised WIM-Ghana to move beyond doing business as usual, to making friends with the Ministry for closer engagement on issues of local and international dimensions.
She further advised women not to shy away from the political arena, but to get involved to give much visibility to their voices and presence as co-developers of national prosperity.
“You need to work on women’s efforts to embrace specific legislation,” she said and urged the various Associations to find ways of pitching camp with decision-makers and paying rapt attention to available institutional support by widening their nets for partnerships in areas including capacity building and funding for women.
The Director commended WIM-Ghana for its persistent and active role in mobilizing women and working towards addressing their challenges and observed that although the problems limiting their participation in the extractive cut across all countries, effective collaboration to increase advocacy for strategic policies and their implementation, as well as education and training, would be the way forward for their inclusiveness.
She acknowledged the contribution of the Ford Foundation towards achieving gender mainstreaming and the inclusion of women in the mining sector.
The quarterly event provided a platform for women groups within the sub-region to share ideas, experiences, and good practices and to discuss the way forward to achieve gender inclusion in the geo-extractive sector.
In their various country presentations, Ms Zanab Ceesay, a Member of WIM in The Gambia, said that although women dominated the mining sector, they faced many obstacles, including non-adherence to the few legislations governing the sector, dominance of politics, leading to widespread exploitation and a cycle of violations.
She explained that although The Gambia’s mining sector was essentially in the area of peanut, construction, telecommunication and tourism, but the larger proportion of women was involved in oyster mining and processing, wood-burning, gravel quarrying, and fishing.
She said the women also lacked inadequate knowledge, equipment, policies, shelter and funding for the growth of their businesses, and suffered constant sexual harassment due to the absence of policy protection, but the Association had taken steps to form partnerships with national institutions like the Geology Department and other administrative bodies, to enhance training to help change the narrative.
The issues from Liberia were similar as data deficiencies cut across all sectors and areas including regulatory, operational licensing, and academia, posing a major challenge to promoting women’s inclusion.
It was made known that in Liberia, attitudes toward including women varied based on cultural and customary practices, and their acceptance in the formal sectors was considered a novelty, and their presence in such male-dominated spaces was considered a competition, therefore efforts were being made to ensure flexible job recruitment processes for females.
There were also issues of sexual and gender-based violence, summing up that limited women’s representation often meant less consideration of their concerns, and the Association was progressively pursuing ways of addressing them, to make women more visible in the business spaces.
Ms Fourera Sotty, the Representative from the Association of Women in the Extractive Industry in Niger, also mentioned challenges including limited data, knowledge, low institutional and regulatory support, and funding as barriers preventing females in the sector from thriving.
She said some employers and businesses even paid women fewer wages, and the few existing legislations and regulations protecting women’s wellbeing were often set aside, but the Association was working to put in place clear actions that would help them in getting into direct contact with women in the extractive sector to table their needs for effective redress.
Dr Georgette B. Sakyi-Addo, the President of WIM-Ghana, spoke about the various partnerships with Ghana’s Minerals Commission, leading to the setting up of a gender desk to address their needs, the Geological Survey Department for sharing its meeting facilities, and the support the Association was receiving from the High Commissions of Australia and Canada in Ghana for its outreach programmes.
Ms Rosmary Okla, a Member of WIM-Ghana, explained that a project at Tinga in the Northern part of Ghana was to encourage diversification from pure mineral extraction to the use of alternative materials like clay for moulding objects, to promote a sustainable environment and income for the people.
This was due to the wrong use of mercury and chemicals which had serious health and environmental consequences, especially, on groundwater, hence the need to engage the people through education and capacity building, to slow down the activities of traditional gold mining in these communities.
Ms Okla said the project was gaining momentum as mentoring programmes in second cycle institutions had generated much interest especially females who envisioned joining the force of women in the extractive sector after completing school.
Madam Aida Marie Tamboura, the Coordinator of WIMOWA, who chaired the meeting noted although all the countries may not be on the same level, if they worked together they would be able to achieve a way forward.