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Women should have place in mining sector

The extraction of mineral resources has risen markedly in recent years and will continue to grow to serve the needs of a growing population. Recent geological, geochemical and airborne geophysical data covering 80 percent of Uganda discovered a total of 18 new mineral targets, 10 new uranium priority anomalies, 300 million tonnes of proven iron ore deposits in the country.

Of recent, the sector has become highly gendered in terms of the growing number of women joining it, and then, the deeply gendered nature of the tasks involved. Publish What You Pay – Uganda with support from the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Publish What You Pay International Secretariat in their implementation of a project: ‘Promoting the equitable and transparent generation and allocation of extractives revenues for sustainable development undertook a study to assess the role and level of women participation in the allocation of extractives revenue in Karamoja region. The study found out that there are more women joining the mining sector than at any other time in recent history. Another study by the Institute for Development Impact Awareness found out that the ratio of women and children to men in mines in Kitgum District was about 7:3. This is a clear indication of the increasing role of women in the mining sub-sector.

Despite the increasing number of women participating in the sector, women still face major challenges that have hindered their participation in the sub-sector. Women’s contributions to the sector remain mostly invisible mainly because the sector puts emphasis on the miner and excludes women who are mostly engaged in non-digging activities such as crashing, sluicing, washing, panning, sieving, sorting, transporting, mercury-gold amalgamation, amalgam decomposition, cleaning and food vending. Women involved in artisanal mining perform some of these processing activities while attending to domestic chores, thus their involvement in mining sites is limited, contributing to their invisibility and failure to attain their full potential.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing the sector, there is growing recognition that the extraction sector, if well-managed, can play a positive role in promoting broad-based development and structural transformation of the country. Increasing women’s effective participation in budgeting processes, decision making processes, allocation of extractive revenues evenly, strengthening coordination, etc, will go a long way in improving their wellbeing.