Saturday, September 9, 2017

Women are fighting for their place in the mining industry

Doreen Kissia (third left), Sarah Kusambagulo

Doreen Kissia (third left), Sarah Kusambagulo (2nd right) and other women chat with Getrude Mongella, first President of Pan African Parliament (first left) on the challenges facing women in mining. PHOTO I Salhim SHAO 

By Salome Gregory

Women, girls and other stakeholders on gender issues came together from different parts of the World to participate on the 14th edition of the gender festival with the theme the transformation of oppressive systems for gender equality and sustainable development.

The four days festival from September 5 to 8 is an open forum for women rights activists to come together and share experiences and knowledge, and celebrate achievements and asses the challenges ahead.

A lot of challenges and recommendations were brought up through different sessions. Opportunities for networking, building capacity and contributing to public debate and planning collectively for social change from a feminist perspective ensued.

Woman brings you interviews from women in the mining industry. They shared their stories on how they started their business and the challenges they are going through just because they are women.

Sarah Kisambagulo, 45, is a mother of three children and divorced. She is the Chairperson of the Female Mining Association of Tanzania. Her mining business started six years ago. She decided to change her business from selling fish all the way from Mwanza to the Democratic Republic of Congo to become a mineworker.

She says that, selling fish in DRC pushed her to also start a mining business as some of her customers offered her gold in exchange for fish. Selling the gold she got from the exchange upon her return home helped her realize the profit in the mining industry.

She decided to give it a try by surveying Ludewa area in Iringa where she was informed there are copper minerals. It was never easy for her to locate the right place to get copper since she had no expertise and professionals to help her with the entire process.

She says that, she would travel about 50 kilometres by car from Ludewa town to Muhambalesi village where her research on the availability of copper minerals started. Kisambagulo says she would spend more than eight hours walking just to get to where she wanted to settle and start from.

Back then, small miners were allowed to look for the right place where they would want to start their business. She managed to get a place in Muhambalahesi village and employed about 20 people to work for her.

Money gone down the drain

“I spent more than Sh300,000, 000 million, for paying workers, paying for 175 plots to make sure I get a mining plant in Ludewa. Surprisingly I did not even manage to get a license after four years of surveying if the area has copper and I also incurred other expenses such as upgrading the village road to simplify the village logistics,” she says.

Even her 10 tons of copper she managed to get in Muhambalesi village could not be allowed to get out of the village since she had no license. On making a follow up on the plots she paid for she was told the plots had already been sold to another person prior to her purchase.

She says that, 2012 to 2015 was a period of recording losses in her new business as the bulldozer she hired for a year to make the road in the village had some of its parts stolen and she consequently had to pay more than Sh270,000,0000 million to cover the losses.

As she was still waiting for her license, she had already paid for 175 plots whose mandate for ownership was never granted to her. That was a very big letdown which forced her to halt mining activities for a year; as a result, her copper mineral was eventually engulfed by soil.

“A lot was said undercover that where was I getting money to do all these investments as a woman. At the end of the day they managed to pull me down and it is just one year since I officially resumed with the same business,” says Kisambagulo.

Rachael Njau, 42, is a mother of two children who has a mining site called Rachael camp in Mererani, Arusha. She has been mining for the past 12 years. She mines Tanzanite. She has employed more than 21 people.

She says the challenges she is going through at her mining site include lack of proper facilities to support miners to get more of the minerals as well as bureaucracy in getting mining license for women.

Unfavourable laws

Rachael is happy her father gave her the mining site. However she is not happy with the contracts and laws that surround the mining industry in Tanzania. She thinks that the situation could be much better if the government goes through all contracts and make sure they are not impartial and serve the benefit of the country itself.

“Being a woman, it’s not easy managing to survive in the industry for that long unless you accept the fact that you have to be a woman but behave like a man to keep your business alive and growing,” says Rachael.

She says that, women who are in mining industry are not considered when it comes to loans. Lack of proper facilities that can identify if a mineral is a gem, semi or caption is affecting our production.

She calls upon the government and other stakeholders in the mining industry to educate women on the best ways to go about the business as well as how to defend themselves when they are faced with any form of injustice just because they are women.

Doreen Kissia is a mineral broker who has been involved with the business for seven years now and owns Ikombo mining. She says that there is so much going on in the mining industry in Tanzania as far as women are concerned. And one can never succeed if she doesn’t cope with how men do things.

Her history in mining is very unique due to the fact that she was the only person chosen by the villagers to be given a mining license despite the fact that men spend a lot of their time and money campaigning for themselves to be given the license.

“I spent four years fighting to get my license while I had everything in place. Some powerful officials in Dodoma denied me license for that long and without any explanation,” she says.

She says that, whatever men can do women can do better. It is time for women to stand their ground and fight for whatever they want to achieve in life. “Men will always try to pull women down. If we give them that time we will never go anywhere,” she states.

As a way of pulling her down, her machines at her mine were stolen. There was also a time she was accused of making death threats, and according to mining laws if you get involved in any murder case your license is completely revoked.

“I was taken to police for finger prints checkup and they tried to verify if I had ever owned a gun. Thank God nothing came out of their investigation and I was released to go on with my life,” says Doreen.

Commenting on the challenges women go through, the Former Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania mama Anne Makinda says that, women should stop waiting for others to do things on their behalf.

She says, “Women shouldn’t wait for the government dominated by men to support them in doing their jobs. Women can manage to do things without being supervised, it is time for women to the lead and show the world that they can manage complex issues.”

Efforts made to reach the Ministry of Energy and Minerals for comments on allegations of gender bias in the mining industry didn’t bare any fruits. Woman contacted Dr Medard Kalemani, the Deputy Minster of Energy and Minerals to have his view on the matter but his phone went unanswered.