Between 2013 and 2014 Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) conducted a study on the socio-economic impacts of mining induced displacement from Marange diamond fields. The study showed that the community pay for the costs of mining and yet have no share in the benefits thereof. In February 2016 President Robert Mugabe announced that the diamond mining companies in Marange had stolen at least $13 billion ever since they entered Marange in 2009. The effects of such grand theft are even more severe for women who are excluded from mining jobs and yet whose unpaid labor keeps mining going. Land grabbing, displacements and pollutions breaks the age old cultural and spiritual connection between women and land hence the need for each mining company to show how it is going to ensure that its operations do not worsen the living conditions of already vulnerable groups in society, especially women and children. CNRG is working with women in 5 mining districts to build a grassroots movement that resist destructive mining.
Informed by the foregoing research, CNRG is implementing a 3 year project with support from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) entitled, ‘Enhancing the Capacity of Women in Communities Affected by Extractive Industries in Zimbabwe to mobilize and demand rights’ which was initiated in late 2015 and will run till 2018. The project is being implemented in 5 districts namely Bikita, Mutoko, Penhalonga, Hwange and Darwendale. The purpose of the project is to engage grassroots women in participatory action research and use the evidence gathered to build the capacity of women affected by extractive industries to resist destructive mining. Ultimately, the aim is to influence legislative and policy reforms leading to a free, prior, informed and continuous consent of women in mining communities. . Effective and continuous lobbying of stakeholders will result in a change in the manner in which government negotiates mining contracts. Any mining project must first and for most be approved by the people who shall be affected
CNRG networks with likeminded movements and organizations in Zimbabwe and in the region to build civil resistance to destructive mining. CNRG looks forward to be working with progressive women’s rights groups at national, regional and global level, which include Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe(WCoZ),GenderLinks(South Africa),Femnet(Kenya), AWID, just to mention a few. The purpose is to ensure local grassroots communities are part of regional and global movements against destructive mining. Already CNRG has partnered with Womin wherein it has sent selected community leaders to regional tours and trainings in South Africa.
A woman displaced from Marange fetching water at an unprotected water source at Arda Transau
Mining induced poverty must be stopped
Bikita women are being violated by mining security officials everyday, as a serious shortage of energy persists in the community and they are forced to cut off trees to set up fires to cook and eat. The Environmental Management Agency of Zimbabwe has passed a regulation allowing mining security officials to arrest anyone found to cut off firewoods, as these lands are now private property owned by the mining companies. Young women who are seen cutting off trees are arbitrarily taken by mining guards, who then force them to cook and wash for them, with the risk of being sexually harassed whilst performing such household duties. Denying women to have access to firewood deprives them of their dignity and basic human rights, together with exposing them to harassment and sexual abuses. The government district officials and the mining companies should ensure communities have access to alternative sources of energy, if firewoods are not to be cut off anymore. And security officials should be properly trained to perform their role of guardians professionally, in the full respect of community & women’ s life. Bikita women cannot be left alone anymore. They need their voice to be heard and their claims to be addressed, now!
Female villagers from mining districts in Mutoko, Bikita and Hwange have joined their voices to those of rural women across the whole Southern Africa region for the 2016 SADC People Summit, demanding for more accountability from transnational corporations and to stop the plunder of their lands.
The mining in our land started in 1952, lithium is the main mineral currently being extracted by companies. Before mining started, the vegetation and land were in good conditions, communities could move freely around, life was safe and we had no particular problems.
With the beginning of mining activities, the situation deeply worsened: now there is no freedom of movement anymore, mostly due to security concerns and risk of harassments by mine workers; we are also facing several problems with fetching firewood, especially for women, because it is forbidden and we have to pay fees if we are caught collecting firewood. But so far there is no other source of energy available for us, and we have been trying to engage mining companies at management level to ask for them to help us, but we have received no response.
Air pollution, water pollution, land degradation and deterioration of soil quality are the main consequences of mining and all these issues women are especially felt by women. Another serious challenge for women arises mostly from high unemployment rates; there are no opportunities for women to work in mines. Another issue is arises with regard to the health clinic à it charges high fees for communities; it does not help the inhabitants because we cannot afford to pay for it.
Our experience with CNRG: The experience that our community had with CNRG’s project was really eye opening and enriching. The workshop help us realize that we, women, have the power and the right to challenge the abusive practices of companies, that we can ask companies to respond for their behavior and that we are entitled to benefit from minerals because these are our mines. The mine should benefit us first of all, before we did not care about where the resources and the revenues were going but now we are aware that these are our lands and our minerals. What is needed however is to mobilize more women and we would like CNRG help us in gaining a better understanding on how best engage and negotiate with mining companies.
Future action desired by CNRG: From our part, we would like to have more awareness programs held in the future, in order to receive a more solid training on our rights and the best way for the communities to approach mining officials; something which is really needed in my opinion is to be trained on how to use human rights language, taught to gather evidence and file complaints in a more clear, technical and appropriate way. This would really make the fear in the female community to be pushed away.
Another outstanding issue is gender based violence: it assumes different forms, psychological, economic and physical: men are the only ones working in mining sites, so they say that they are those brining money to the houses and use this as a justification for violence against their wives.
Furthermore, among your girls there are high rate of school drops, early marriages, forced prostitution because there are no jobs. Women caught fetching firewood are arbitrarily arrested and face deportation by security mining guards, in their buildings where they are forced to cook, clean for them and doing other housework.
Politics remain the main challenge: the traditional leaders do not allow us to enter the mining sites and to engage directly with companies, they should be our entry points at community level but they are getting benefits out of the mining, so they do not want us to address the company officials directly. This situation leaves us without any support from our tribal leaders and with fear of repression.
Testimonial – Mathilde, Mutoko
Black granite mining in Mutoko started in 1973. Before that, our communities relied mostly on farming and agriculture in their lands, but as mining companies came and started mining they were disposed of the land they have been cultivated and lived upon for decades.
A first problem is related to blasting and extraction of stones: as a result, there is a huge amount of dusts scattered in the air, together with pollution of the river – we no longer have sustainable and clean water sources for us and for our cattle, at the same time several sanitation problems are arising due to degrading environmental quality. Blasting also causes cracking of houses, lots of houses have been progressively destroyed because of the mining that is taking place in Mutoko district.
Communities have been forcibly displaced and relocated with often no compensation of any kind. Mining companies claim that our houses were not of any values even before the extraction started, so they do not need to compensate. Our villagers have nothing to do but to move in another place and start everything again. The mining companies are not offering any assistance or any cash or in kind compensation, they say that they cannot compensate a “rural” home: you are just told to go away, with no prior information and no time to prepare. You lose your field, your cattle, everything you had, and no compensation of any sort is given. Furthermore, another issue arises from the fact that miners often come from other places: these men come from far away to work in mining areas and they usually end up taking local women because their families remain far away, as there is not accommodation provided for them.
Moreover, we are experiencing issues related to teen pregnancy: 13-14 years girls often are made pregnant by local workers, who, however do no stay in the mining areas, but who live in Harare. They come a couples of times per week and then they go back to the city, leaving young women with their children to take care of. These women are hence often forced to prostitute themselves and are abused by local miners who live in the villages. Finally there are no facilities, not schools, nor hospitals nor transports easily available for us.
Our experience with CNRG: since when CNRG first came to introduce their project and PAR workshops, and we started engaging with them, their teaching and trainings revealed essential for our community; we realized that things that we were considering as normal and unavoidable until that time, for instance our displacement and the forced prostitution of our women, were actually abuses and violations of our fundamental rights. We have been facing the same situation as Bikita community, with our local chiefs: often we have been trying to access mining companies, but they are not active and not willing to assist their communities; when it comes to the protection of their rights, they are not helping. They usually ignore our complaints and behave like nothing is happening, but living in mining areas are abused. Another challenge that we face when we try to approach the mining companies emerges because the top managers and the executive officials are always in Harare so when they come to visit the mining sites they say that they have no idea about the on-going situation, there is no response from them.
CNRG: which future desired action: we would like to have CNRG still engaged in capacity building training with our communities, in order for us to be empowered to approach mining companies with one voice and more efficiently. The support of CNRG is very much needed and we consider it necessary in strengthening community awareness and make our leaders understand that these are not individual rights but are community wide complaints, collective rights we are claims to be finally addressed and respected
Last issue relates to the lack of appropriate labor contracts for workers, mostly informally hired à less guarantees and support measures provided by companies.