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Culture hindering women involvement and benefits from mining

a woman paning gold dust in lugingi gold mine in kitumbi sub county mubende districtMubende gold mining is highly dominated by men, a trait blamed on the cultural belief of women not being allowed to access mines.

Mr Kibirige Emmanuel the secretary Singo Artisan Small Scale Miners Association (SASSMA) in Kitumbi sub county Mubende district explains that they have 1420 registered members but only 472 are women that deal in petty jobs like panning gold dust, spreading the gold dust in the sun to dry up among others.

“Women engagement in the gold mining is rooted back in our culture. It was believed that if you slept with a woman you could never get gold the next day. Women were not allowed to step near a gold pit because they were looked at as a curse, that if they got close to a gold pit, gold could disappear. As a result we also told our workers never to sleep with a woman for a full week,” Mr Kibirige revealed

“However these are practices that were made by our grandparents but we have discovered that all these were lies because today women have come up to engage in the mining although in small numbers. They enter tunnels and pits and own gold pits and all is well, nothing has gone wrong.” Kibirige stressed

Kibirige explained that the value chain begins with getting a spade in the morning, entering the pit, digging out the gold dust which is done by men.  Women are involved in petty jobs like sun drying the gold dust, taking it to the crashing/milling machine after which they start panning it. A few women however have taken on the ‘men’ jobs of buying and selling gold.

However others also blame the limited involvement of women in the mining sector on limited information provision. About 2500 women in Mubende district have not directly engaged in mining sector due to lack of information which has hindered there economic empowerment.

According to the community development officer for Kitumbi Sub County Mr senkusu Edward the information gap in the mining sector has greatly affected the women involvement in this activity thus carrying out petty jobs like gold dust panning where they earn peanuts

Mr Senkusu explained that gold mines in Mubende district are estimated to accommodate around 60,000 people dealing in the business. Out of this number only 2500 are women who engage mainly in service provision.

“Most women are always scared of engaging in mining sector, they do not know how to operate machines, fear taking risks- a culture belief community attitude and above all they lack information to help them run this business,” he explained.

“There is need for thorough sensitization of the community to enable the women to work in the mines.” Senkusu stressed

Ms Catherine Nyakecho, a Geologist Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development confirmed that women engagement in the mining sector is still at low capacity. She explained that a survey carried out in 20 Uganda’s gold mining sites revealed that men participation stands at 113,756 while women are at  79,019.

According to the Mining Act, 2003, clause  114, on the contrary, a woman may be employed in any underground work in any mine or in any operation or activity relating to or associated with mining. This clearly indicates that women are catered for under the law but due to the lack of information and cultural ties, women involvement in this sector is below standard.

Ms Nivatiti Nandujja  the Women Rights Coordinator ActionAid Uganda, women should come on board and get involved in the decision making in the mining sector.

“We need to have gender based laws with in this sector. When it comes to the employment pattern, the conditions where they work are critical; they lack protective gears from dangerous chemicals substances, they don’t have the entitlements provided for by the law like maternity leave ,  the wages are  really wanting. These issues and more need to be addressed,” she advised

Ms Nivatiti explained that there is need to make information about the mining sector  available for  women. She called on ensuring a gender equity sector with women representation who ensure that women benefits within the sector are pronounced.

Nivatiti stressed that; “We need to address the cultural barriers affecting women participation; we need to empower women to talk in all the forums and to ask for what belongs to them during community meetings. They need to bargain their way through so that their rights are realized.”

By Josephine Nabaale

Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org