Changes in mining industry in Zimbabwe should help women
Since its launch last year, the Government of Zimbabwe’s ”indigenisation” programme has resulted in significantly more local ownership of the country’s mineral resources.
It is also hoped that it will empower and improve the participation of women in one of the country’s critical economic sectors.
President Robert Mugabe launched the Community Share Ownership Scheme (CSOS) in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, one of the country’s poorest regions, whose population depends on both formal and illegal gold mining.
The province is in the southern part of the country and is very rich in gold and limestone deposits.
The CSOS is a nation-wide government initiative to empower rural communities by giving them a ten percent stake in all businesses that exploit natural resources in their areas.
The scheme has already been launched by other mining powerhouses in the country including Zimbabwe Platinum Mines in Chegutu, Unki Mines in Shururgwi and Mimosa Mine in Zvishavane.
The idea is to change the lives of the rural poor and vulnerable communities so that they too own and benefit from the natural mineral resources in their areas.
The programme is expected to help small scale women miners improve their productivity.
According to the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines, women miners make up about ten per cent of miners overall and the share ownership scheme is expected to increase that number.
In the last few years, mining has become the mainstay of growth in Zimbabwe, contributing a projected 13 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2011 and 4.5 percent employment.
According to the 2012 national budget, mineral exports grew by 38.7 percent, generating revenues of about USD 2.1 billion. For 2012, the sector is expected to grow by 13.3 percent.
From 1999 to 2008, the mining sector’s contribution to total GDP has been averaging about four percent.
The contribution increased phenomenally to average 11 percent between 2009 and 2011, owing to a cocktail of measures to increase the capacity of small to medium scale producers.
Most women miners fall under this category.
It is a tough business for women due to the physical nature of the work, but also because they often lack the necessary equipment.
This was evidenced by the recent revelation of the president of Zimbabwe Women in Mining, Evelyn Musharu, that the association would have to use manual methods when they started work on the 16 claims allocated to them last year as they had failed to attract investors.
This lack of mechanisation would in the process reduce their capacity to fully exploit the claims.
While it is premature to start counting the actual benefits of these community share ownership schemes on women, they could, if implemented properly, provide a platform for women living within the mining areas to actively participate in the mining of minerals and form consortiums to acquire shares offered by mining companies.
The government has also announced plans to review the Mining and Minerals Act to formalise illegal gold panning and make sure miners work within the law.
Mines minister, Obert Mpofu, recently told local media that this change would help small scale miners, including women, to access mining equipment.
Although none of this will not be easy for the government (legalising gold panning conflicts with legislation to fight illegal panning because of the damage to the environment), it will reduce unemployment and possibly ease the lives of thousands of poor workers, many of them women.