The African continent is endowed with an abundance of resources, both natural as well as human capital. However, often the human potential is overlooked due to some unique challenges facing the continent including its youth bulge.
Currently more than 40% of Africa’s population is aged between 15-24 years .Africa has more young people under the age of 20 than anywhere else in the world, and this represents both an opportunity and a threat.
High youth unemployment is rife across many countries on the continent, and the market is struggling to provide jobs for the 10-12 million young people joining the labour force annually.
This is largely due to the poor trickle-down effects of the commodity boom in various countries as well as the cost of decades of war and poor leadership.
The mining sector has been a key employer and plays a pivotal role in the development and growth of the continent. In more recent times it has struggled to attract top skills due to the global demand and the perception of the sector.
Increasingly, there is an opportunity for the mining industry to play a role in bridging the unemployment gap and repositioning itself as an employer of choice, as well as a key job creator on the continent.
In today’s instalment of Celebrating Women in Mining, Great Dyke News 24 reporter Jeoffrey Ncube speaks to Margret Ndadambi, a woman miner who defied all odds and ventured into mining at the tender age of 21.
JN: CAN YOU TELL US WHO YOU ARE?
My name is Margret Ndabambi nee Mukarati but a lot of people call me Mukarati, I am a miner in Guruve, and my mine is almost 400 metres away from Hunyani river down there.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY INTO MINING ?
The issue of mining started like this,- there was a programme that was introduced by the Ministry of Women Affairs back in 2009 in August, whereby the ministry deployed their field workers to many organisations, churches, communities and by that time l was staying in Chitungwiza.
So the team came to our church during our ladies meeting and then they were given a time to introduce themselves as a team, so they inspired us to be business minded and start some projects rather than just being housewives.
They motivated us to venture into tourism, cross border trading, mining and farming among other activities but l was interested in mining.
I started imagining my life being a miner, as a woman and by that time l was around 21 years and that was the same year l got wedded so l was very young to become my own boss but that didn’t stop me.
I went to the Ministry of Mines and they told us to get into groups as women in mining, so we choose our committee and surprisingly I was nominated to be the secretary of Kubatana Women in Mining in Zengeza. We were told that we were supposed to submit the names of those who were interested to the Ministry of Mines in Harare.
We managed to do so and after that we managed to pay our prospector and we were given a place to mine in Guruve and l had never been there before.
After a week, we managed to visit the place and we were a group of 80 women and l was the youngest and people were laughing at me asking if l can be able to manage because they thought mining was only for the elderly but with my faith l knew that l would make it.
The journey was too long for me and we arrived late and had to wait for the next day for us to be cleared by the police.
The following day we were shown the prospects but they were very mountainous places to an extent that other women who were older than me failed to reach their sites because they were tired.
A lot of women surrendered and they gave up but l told myself that no matter what was going to come, l would pursue my dream and finally l was shown my place which was on top of a huge mountain about 400 metres away from Hunyani river and that’s where l’m still mining up to now.
We started to explore for gold there and for almost 6 months we were staying in a bush with a group of 6 men and it was not easy even to feed them.
We started from zero without any machinery. We only had shovels, picks, a mortar and pestle for taking and processing samples and I didn’t have any idea of what gold looked like and l was curious to see it but l did not get any point (measure of gold) in our sample plate.
My husband was so supportive but we spent more than one and a half years without seeing any gold yet we were busy pumping out some money but l couldn’t give up. That’s how l got into mining.
WHAT IS THE PRESENT SCALE OF YOUR MINING OPERATIONS?
Now I have almost 12 workers who operates in day and night shifts, and l have a hammer mill and l’m looking forward to purchasing a ball mill or stamp mill because we have a lot of tonnage that is being produced at our mine.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE AS A WOMAN MINER?
We are facing challenges to do with our milling in Guruve. Milling companies are too far from our operations which are situated in mountainous areas. It’s also difficult for us to transport our ore and the milling companies are also overwhelmed hence one should book a month in advance which is problematic to us.
It is also rare to see women involved in the actual digging of ores, we are essentially barred from any activity that involves mineral exploration and sale. While this may be associated with the lack of access to land and mineral resources, women are generally still not seen digging or operating equipment in pit areas even if they own land or mining licences.
This is often attributed to the cultural barriers that prohibit women from physically demanding activities, which are usually deemed to be “men’s work.” The masculine image of “the miner” created in early industrial days when mining was a dangerous, laborious and risky operation continues to have a strong effect excluding women from heavy mining duties.
Cultural barriers also amount to taboos due to the belief that female miners are “loose women,” and they are deemed unclean, excluding them from carrying out underground mining.
These barriers manifest with a connotation that women cause a “spirit” of bad luck when in close proximity to minerals or mineral-bearing stones, hence the justification for banning them from pits). The barriers also restrict women’s access to the valuable first pickings.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR ROLE AS A MINER AND A HOUSEWIFE?
My husband is so supportive since day one. My children even ask me about samples and we now have one language as a family because they understand that mining is a business.
When l’m at home, l do everything for my husband and family and l do respect them because they support me in whatever l do at the mine. Lastly, God blesses where there is unity and love so we are prospering because we put God first as we know that the precious metal comes from God.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO VENTURE INTO MINING?
Mining is for everyone despite gender and age, young women can venture into mining just take mining as a business and you will prosper.