Towards sustainable livelihoods for women along mining value chains: RELOADED


17 September 2021

Compiled by Josephine Chiname:ZELA

Zimbabwe’s economy depends on natural resources. In the mining front, the artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) sector has proven to be a crucial source of livelihood for many households. It has been   reported that it sustains livelihoods of at least two million people in Zimbabwe directly and indirectly through ancillary services and secondary economic activities.[1]  Despite women making a considerable portion of major players in the mining sector, they are still  said to be more likely to operate on unregistered land or in informal operations (35 %) than men (19 %).[2] In addition, women working on registered claims were more likely to work on claims without a valid license (28 %) than men (20%).[3]To respond to this challenge, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) with the support of Norwegian People’s Aid is implementing a project which seeks to promote a gender inclusive mining sector where economically independent women in mining communities have decent work, resource ownership with access to markets while promoting their effective participation in decision-making processes along mining value chains.

Using the Women Can Do It (WCDI) capacity building model, from the 19th to 20th May 2021, ZELA conducted a training of trainers for women miners and small business owners on how they can implement responsible mining supply chains through adopting the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidelines on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. In keeping with the WCDI empowerment model, from 7th to 8th September 2021 ZELA supported five trained women to replicate the training with other women miners in Insiza and Zvishavane. The trainers emphasised that women can only be able to achieve sustainable businesses if they follow responsible sourcing guidelines in their operations.

The trainers took their fellow women miners though the first and second steps of the OECD due diligence five steps framework. The said steps of the guidance focus on the establishment of strong business management systems; including identifying and assessing risks in the supply chain.  The trainers with the support from ZELA officers took their fellow women miners through a training on financial management, how to keep proper records, some of the legislative requirements relating to mining licences and environmental management and a session on safety, health and environmental (SHE) practices at operational level.

The discussions with the women miners in Insiza and Zvishavane revealed that the lack of knowledge among women miners, the increasing instances of violence perpetrated by machete wielding gangs, proliferation of illegal gold buyers, lack of a proper and fair chrome pricing framework, unresolved mine claim disputes and corruption are challenges that may hinder the women in implementing the due diligence guidance. It emerged that:

  • Limited information on and access to capital is still a challenge which is resulting in women being involved in unsafe, largely informal and least paying activities along the mining value chain.
  • The proliferation of illegal gold buyers continues to be a big problem affecting due diligence especially for women whose mining claims are in remote areas with limited access to approved and legally registered gold buyers.
  • Criminality and violence in the sector, sometimes perpetuated by machete wielding gangs forces the women to quickly dispose of ore at a lesser price as they cannot risk ferrying it to urban centres where they can fetch better prices.

Some of the solutions which emerged from the deliberations included a call for formalisation of the ASM sector, targeted awareness campaigns on legal requirements for ASM miners, financial management and available funding opportunities. Most women also highlighted that they were not aware of the existence of financial assistance programs targeting women like the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank (ZWMB).

In concluding the sessions, the trainers took an opportunity to share information on the recently launched decent work for women campaign. This is a campaign that is hinged on Sustainable Development Goal Number Goal 8 that obligates governments to, “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. This campaign seeks to promote the economic rights for women in mining communities by empowering them on how they can access economic assets and opportunities in the mining sector. Women miners were called to endorse and sign the petition. The campaign is running under the #Tipeiwodariro #WCDI hashtag.


According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.[1]

The current state of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector hinders the aspirations of decent work for most women. The 2020 State of the ASM report developed by Delve establishes that, individuals working in ASM make up the world’s largest mining workforce with at least 44.75 million people across 80 countries worldwide relying on ASM for primary employment. Majority of the workers being women and depending on the region, women are estimated to make up 30% to 50% of the total workforce globally, thus indicating a significant role women play in ASM.[2]

Various research reports have established that women working in ASM are faced with societal and structural barriers which are a hinderance to decent work in the sector. The informality of the sector has exposed women to dangerous working conditions from poor occupational health and safety, use of mercury, limited access to financial services among other challenges. Addressing those barriers requires behavioural change, which in turn requires time, commitment, and collaboration between various parties. Most importantly, raising awareness and building knowledge through education can make a difference in societal behaviour and cognitive capacity. The campaign endeavours to also ensure that there is enhancement of women’s confidence and capacity to freely share ideas and perspectives and stand for their own rights.  More gender-sensitive workplace environments are essential to ensure women achieve their potential at work.

This campaign seeks to advance decent work for women along the mining value chain.


[2] Ibid.

[1] Maponga, O. and C. Ngorima. “Overcoming environmental problems in the gold panning sector through legislation and education: the Zimbabwean experience.” Journal of Cleaner Production 11 (2003): 147-157.

[2] PACT (2015) Golden Opportunity: Scoping Study of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Zimbabwe

[3] ibid

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