Of female artisanal gold miners_ Financial Gazette_ 04 August 2016

Date: February 4, 2016
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Name of the story: Of female artisanal gold miners

Name of the media house: Financial Gazette

Country: Zimbabwe


Brief description of the item of work you submitted and motivation of why it is a good example of gender awareness and sensitivity in advancing gender equality Post-2015.

The article is about a success story of female illegal miners better known as artisanal miners who managed to legitimise their work following interventions by foreign donors and a local lobby group. The article also highlights the challenges the women faced before formalising their work in the highly risky sector. While this appears to be like any other story, it distances itself from the other novelties of illegal gold mining as it depicts elderly women operating as illegal gold miners.

While society has widely associated artisanal mining with rowdy and unruly men, these respected community women managed to break the misconception and in the process highlight the cumbersome process of legalising operations of artisanal miners owing to government bureaucracy.

As picks and shovels for heavy digging, police chases that require the so called masculinity of men, a 62 year old grandmother and her fellow elderly folk proved beyond doubt that what men can do, women can do better. The women have refused to fold their hands but fight to fend for their families by taking on the most risky source of income there is.

Unlike other artisanal miners, mostly men who are content with operating in the shadows, these women have tirelessly worked to legalise their operations and they are showing their young counterparts and the rest of the world that it is possible to be in the business and not succumb to social ills such as prostitution.

Moreover, most men now prefer to work with women in syndicates owing to their honesty and straightforwardness, which is still not the case with male dominated syndicates. Hence, their story is unique and worthy of sharing as it might inspire many and change the dynamics of mining in the country, which favors’ men.


Why did you produce the story? What problem or context is it responding to?

I produced the story in order to inform and educate society that there is a huge opportunity for women in mining. Though society brands the sector as a male terrain, women of stature within the community have survived and succeeded just as much as their male counterparts succeed. Society often brand women associated with artisanal mining as of loose morals or professional commercial sex workers but here are elderly women, grandmothers for that matter who are making an honest living out of the sector.

If further highlights the government’s cumbersome process to legitimise one’s operations to mine a resource that is within their community and able to change not only their lives but also the economy of the country. The article further exposes the legislation that governs mining, specifically artisans as outdated as it was merely copied and pasted from those used during the colonial era, which were discriminatory. Hence, the fact that it had to take foreign donors for the resilient elderly women to legalise their operations indirectly indicates the difficulty those without funding continue to face.

Key objectives

What did you hope to achieve with this coverage?

Firstly, I intended to change the perception society have about women who venture into artisanal mining by replacing the “loose moral figure” society has, with that of elderly women who could be anyone’s mother or grandmother. It also sort to highlight that despite the physical features of men and women, both sexes were capable of executing the same task and duties with equal results. The coverage also sort to enlighten policymakers of the need to review and amend mining laws.

Target audience

Whom did you hope to reach? Did you succeed in reaching this audience? What evidence do you have to that effect?

The article targeted the general men and women across Zimbabwe’s society and other countries faced with similar societal challenges in relation to women in mining. It also targeted Policymakers of the need to revise and amend mining laws governing the sector in the country, as they are discriminatory.

The article managed to have a much stronger bearing on reaching policymakers considering that the publication is the leading business weekly newspaper in the country with a strong readership within that bracket. Though the majority of the general populace can hardly afford to part ways with US$2 to buy a copy of the paper, some managed to access the article online via the publication’s website. Moreover, the article was carried by other news websites. I only have evidence of other websites that picked the story, namely The Zimbabwean and AllAfrica.com.

How did you go about researching and writing the story?

How did you gather the data, how many sources, female and male did you consult? Why did you choose these sources and how were their voices important?

I gathered the data by way of face-to-face interviews where I managed to speak to 15 sources. Most importantly, I only gave voice to eight strategic sources in the articles. Five of them were women while three were men. I chose these particular eight sources because of their strategic position that benefit to the article. For example, four of them were elderly and mid aged (47, 48, 50 and 62 years of age) while one was aged 30.

When most people talk, of female artisanal miners, they immediately have a picture of teenage or girls still in their early twenties but these selected females voices proved that even grandmothers could gainfully sustain themselves from gold mining. Moreover, the voices of the men from experts within mining, the first one is an internationally acclaimed mining activist, the second a South African based university professor and a PhD student studying towards mining. Hence, all the sources were carefully selected to give a rich appeal to the article.


What impact did it have? What evidence do you have to illustrate impact?

The article managed to have significant impact as government is now amending the country’s Mining Act to accommodate most of the issues raised in the article to do with bureaucracy. The Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa acknowledged the issues raised in the article during an interview I had with him when he came to tour the mining fields, including the area where the women covered in the story reside. Most of the experts in the article also acknowledge the impact the article had within their circles. However, most of the acknowledgements were made in person.

Follow up

How would you conduct a follow up to your story and why?

I will first engage the Women in Mining Association based in Zimbabwe and check either whether there has been an increase in the number of female artisanal miners or those legally operating after the publication of the article in February, this year. I will also do an interview with the Mines Minister to crosscheck on the progress made in relation with amendments to the mining laws and for him to give a period to have completed the process.

I will further revisit the women and hear from them whether their operations have improved for the better as compared to when they were still operating illegally or they are still faced with the same challenges. I will further check with the local based lobby group that facilitated the legitimisation of the female artisan miners to see whether they are planning to carry out or have already done similar projects to other women as they currently await government to complete amending the law.

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