Women in Gemstones Association of Zimbabwe (WIGAZ) formed.
11 May 2023
Compiled by Primrose Siyakachana (WIGAZ Chairlady), Fadzai Midzi and Joshua Machinga (Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association)
The 24th to the 26th of October 2022 saw the birth of an association that was once an idea seeing the light of day. Sixteen women drawn from different districts in Zimbabwe, such as Hurungwe, Mount Darwin, Chinhoyi, Masvingo, Chiredzi, Chimanimani, Bubi, Mberengwa, and Guruve, participated in the first edition of the artisanal and small-scale mining Gemstone Academy that was convened by the Zimbabwe School of Mines (ZSM). Annually, ZELA organizes the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Academy, focusing on other mineral value chains like gold, but in 2022, it was extended to the gemstone value chain. The focus of the academy was on skill development, with a thrust on gemstone identification, cutting, and polishing.
Realizing the skills gap in identifying, grading, cutting, and polishing gemstones, the women organized themselves to address the technical gap. Sometimes, failure to speak with one voice and poor knowledge and skill sharing have been (and remain) one of the key reasons why artisanal and small-scale miners remain with fragmented voices regarding their concerns on mining issues. The women (gemstone) miners identified coming together for amplified bargaining voice power through forming an association to bridge the gap. The association’s vision is to represent all the gemstone miners and bargain on behalf of its members on gemstone value chain processes and operations.
It was during this academy that the Women in Gemstones Association of Zimbabwe (WIGAZ) was born. The founders note that there was a need for women gemstone miners and jewelers to come together, work in solidarity, and even confront the challenges they face in the mining industry, which remains a male-dominated industry. The main emphasis is on value addition to realize the full value of the colored stones, a mantra that the Government of Zimbabwe is advocating for. With the growth of the gemstone sector in Zimbabwe, the women saw an opportunity to grow with it, be part of an organized group, and be the beneficiaries of the new opportunities in mining and value addition. This is in sync with the WIGAZ vision and its mandate.
Armed with this vision and mandate, the women named their association WIGAZ, with a governance structure in place. ZELA has assisted the women with the registration of the association and supported them in the development of their constitution.
To this end, WIGAZ is legally registered and constituted. WIGAZ has credited ZELA and Action Aid Zimbabwe for supporting this noble initiative.