The role of women in the development of the solid minerals sector cannot be over emphasized as Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) around the world continues to grow. There are currently an estimated 40.5 million people directly involved in the activity—and around 150 million people indirectly dependent on it (IGF, 2017), and women make up a significant number of the sector’s participants.

Although there is a critical lack of data, women are believed to account for up to 30 per cent of the global ASM workforce (Hinton, Veiga, & Beinhoff, 2003), and up to 50 per cent in Africa (UNECA, 2002): in some cases (such as Guinea) the proportion reaches as high as 75 per cent (Hentschel, Hruschka, & Priester, 2002).

Despite the significant number of women involved in ASM in various capacities, there is a serious lack of recognition in almost all spheres, including development programs, public and private sectors, mining communities, or even academia. There is an invisibility problem whereby women’s contributions to the mining sector are masked by the dominant reflection of men’s roles in discussions of mining, thus erasing the participation of women.

Unfortunately, one of the most important reasons why women have remained invisible is that research has historically focused, to a large extent, on digging practices, putting emphasis on the miner and excluding women who are mostly engaged in such non-digging activities such as crashing, sluicing, washing, panning, sieving, sorting, transporting, mercury-gold amalgamation, amalgam decomposition, cleaning and food vending. Women in artisanal mining do some of the processing activities at home while attending to their children and domestic work, and so their involvement in mining sites is limited, contributing to their invisibility.

In Nigeria, women work in the whole spectrum of mining operations—from artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) to large-scale mining (LSM) operations. They are engineers, geologists and other scientists, but a good number of women in mining are manual labourers. Up to 99 per cent of women in mining are in the ASM subsector. Of the approximately nine million people in ASM in Africa, about 50 per cent are women. Sadly, there are some children in ASM too. Women in Mining make up around 30 per cent of the total workforce, and up to 50 per cent in some regions. Although cultural and historical aspects have relegated women’s participation to the periphery, women have always been part of the mining workforce.

Project Rationale:

The need to mainstream gender in the Nigeria solid mineral sector is long overdue. The Nigeria solid mineral industry can bring about a total turnaround of the Nigeria economy if properly managed and developed; it can lead to social development and employment opportunities for many people. While the negligence of resources and the exclusion of social groups, particularly women, can lead to social conflict and exacerbate inequalities.

“Mainstreaming Gender and Gender Justice in the Solid Mineral Sector” in Ebonyi and Edo States with support from Ford Foundation will thus kickstart the process of gender mainstreaming in the solid mineral sector and across all the value chain.

The project will focus on ways to better understand and address the gender dimensions of the solid mineral sector and how the sector can empower women and promote gender equality, contributing to social development and improving business.

Specific Objectives:

1. To examine the prevalence and forms of gender injustice and discrimination in the Nigerian solid mineral sector.

2. To advocate to relevant stakeholder on the need mainstream gender in the solid mineral sector in Ebonyi and Edo State.

3. To Improve opportunities and capacity for women in the Nigerian solid mineral sector.

4. To increase the participation of women and women groups to engage the process of gender mainstreaming in the Nigerian mining sector.

Funding Partner:

The project is funded by Ford Foundation and implemented by Women in Mining Nigeria (WIMIN).

Project Duration:

The project is a 12-month project, commencing November 2021 to October 2022.