Balancing the Load
Equality, what does this mean for women working in mines in Uganda?
Women’s engagement in the extractive industries is slowly but surely gaining ground after having been largely ignored for years. And this is high time, as evidence suggests that while the benefits of extractive industry projects are captured primarily by men, women often face an unbalanced burden of the social, economic, and environmental risks. This is particularly true for small-scale and artisanal mining where a lot of women find informal employment, yet find themselves exploited, unprotected, and exposed to hazardous working conditions, with very few benefits. Golden voices in gold mining, an influencing grantee from Uganda is trying to redress this balance. Executed by Global Rights Alert, the leading local Ugandan NGO on natural resource management, they mobilise women working in gold mines in Mubende and Buhweju districts to raise their voices demanding better working conditions and be visible in platforms where important policy decisions affecting their lives are made.
And raising voices, the women have!
For example, in national newspapers where their voices came across loud and clear on how exploited they are. In the Daily Monitor of July 2018 the chairwoman of the Buhweju Women Miners Association -a newly formed group to raise a collective voice, demanded protective gear in an article called The women who toil in Buhweju’s gold pits. Early 2019 their voices became louder as their demands have not been met yet: for example, in an article in the Observer called For women in gold mines, it’s a chance amidst hurdles. At the same time, GRA made a documentary on their plight and made sure the voices of the women were at the table at the All People Conference on Mining.
While their demands may not have been met yet, their voices have certainly been heard. Or as Jane Ahimbisibwe, the leader of the Buhweju Women Miners Association says: the only change is that we can now meet our employers once a month! But we remain optimistic as change comes slowly.