Women in mining still face challenges: Minister

WOMEN in the mining sector in Zimbabwe are still facing major challenges such as lack of investment capital and knowledge on available opportunities, despite concerted efforts to address them, an official has said.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

In a speech read on her behalf by the director in the ministry at the ongoing MineEntra in Bulawayo yesterday, Women Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the mining sector in Zimbabwe was gender insensitive and women continue to be disadvantaged as they are still discriminated against in this fast growing sector.

“This conference is important because women in the mining sector in Zimbabwe still face major challenges such as lack of investment capital and knowledge on available opportunities. The mining sector in Zimbabwe has generally been regarded with mystification as a sector for the white, rich and powerful,” Nyoni said.

“This is because mining is associated with high capital investments, big machinery and underground activities. For women, the situation is made worse by occupational segregation and lack of access to capital even for the most basic tools.”

According to a study commissioned by the Women Affairs ministry in 2016 with the support of the World Bank, only 30% of the artisanal gold miners in the small-scale mining sector are women, while 80% of the small-scale gold and gemstone claims belong to men.

Women constitute only 7% of the total labour force in the sector.

“This gloomy picture calls for concerted efforts to be directed towards creating a conducive environment that encourages more women to venture into the formal mining sector,” she said.

Nyoni encouraged women to explore various opportunities available in the mining sector value chain.

These include catering and camping services, trucking and transportation services, drilling and coring services, civil works, crane and fork-lifting services, mine waste disposal services as well as water management and waste water treatment services.

She said small-scale miners are currently contributing around 60% of all the gold that is being delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refineries.

“It is gratifying to note that women miners are contributing a fair share of this output despite the numerous challenges they face,” she added.

She thanked the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe through Fidelity Printers and Refiners for establishing the ZW$150 million facility of which ZW$20 million was set aside for women miners. “The onus is now upon all women miners to access these funds to increase production,” she said.