Promoting gender equality in the mining industry

Promoting gender equality in the mining industry


Date: October 4, 2017
  • SHARE:

By Melody Kandare.

Johannesburg 04 October: This past month world leaders gathered in New York for the 72th United Nations General Assembly, which coincided with the second anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

The Assembly was held amid calls from the United Nations and civil society for global leaders to prioritise gender equality as a means of achieving the other 16 goals.

However, events back at home show that we are still a lot way to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life. As I reflect on the status of women in the male dominated mining sector, it is a sad reminder of the many battles women have to fights before gender equality can be achieved.

Earlier this year I attended the SADC Industrialisation Week, which is an annual regional public-private engagement forum, aimed at fostering new opportunities for intra-regional trade and investment. During a tour to one of the mining industries in Johannesburg, I was disappointed to observe the struggles that women in this sector face on a daily basis such as lack of representation, poor facilities, and safety and equipment’s.

The South African mining industry has long existed and to date it remains largely male dominated. Before 1994, underground work was exclusively for males, it was only after 1996 that women were allowed to work underground. Prior to that, they were confined to surface work such as human resources and other administrative roles.

In terms of overall representation in the industry the number of women witnessed a sharp increase from 11 400 in 2002 to around 57 800 in 2015. However an analysis of these figures shows that this figure only represent about 13% of women who make up the mining workforce, according to the Chamber of Mines of South Africa.

Earlier this year, the June 2017 Charter took into account the need to integrate Government policies to remove ambiguities in respect of interpretation and create regulatory certainty as well as to ensure meaningful participation of all, especially women in the mining industry.

Facilities of many mining industries only had men in mind when there were constructed. Lack of female toilets and changing rooms together with poor tunnel lighting is one among many problems that women face especially underground miners. Health risks have risen due to lack of these facilities, for instance lack of proper water and sanitation facilities expose women to health hazards.

South African Journal of Human Resource Management has also cited disrespectful norms as a key challenge that most women in this sector have to deal with on a daily basis. Incidents range from cat calling, name-calling, and use of vulgar or derogatory language and display of body parts.

Personal safety remains a challenge for women in the mining industry, as they suffer physical assaults, verbal abuse, sexual harassment and violence directed at them by their male colleagues and in some cases illegal miners. In many of the cases, the women are forced to trade their bodies by performing unwanted sexual pleasures for employment or other benefits. In the worst of scenarios, women who work underground often fall victims of rape.

According to the SADC Protocol, article 19 on Equal Access to Employment and Benefits; all state parties must ensure that women and men have equal access to wage employment, decent work including social protection being provided, occupational segregation is eradicated together with all forms of discrimination and prohibit dismissal or denial of recruitment irrespective of marital status and gender.

Therefore, for a long-term survival and growth of women in the mining industries safety must be secured, facilities be improved and equipment be designed to suit the needs of women. Patriarchal and sexist cultures must be done away with.

Melody Kandare is the Alliance and Partnerships intern at Gender Links. She writes in her own capacity. This blog is part of Gender Links News and Blogs.


Comment on Promoting gender equality in the mining industry

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *