Women face different economic challenges as a result of the lack of access to, use of and control over land and other productive resources, licences, finance, and geological data.
In many cases, such as observed in Zimbabwe, traditional beliefs also prevent women from utilizing these economic factors, denying them any control over earnings.
The challenges in accessing finance contribute to women’s inability to invest in mining equipment and technology necessary for a successful business. At policy level, the existing discrimination against women often puts them at a lower order in policy decisions affecting them.
Due to the traditionally influenced legal constraints to owning or inheriting land and mineral rights, many women end up operating unregistered. This increases their vulnerability in the current global efforts to promote formalization, which, in itself, is characterized by arduous requirements many women are unable to fulfil.
Without a commitment to gender mainstreaming, existing prejudices can be reinforced by the formalization process, stifling women’s capacity to contribute to a productive and responsible mining sector.
In today’s edition of Celebrating Women In Mining, Great Dyke News 24 reporter Jeoffrey Ncube (JN) spoke to one of the few women miners Chiedza Chipangura (CC), to celebrate and recognise her achievements and to acknowledge her efforts in fighting against gender equality within the mining sector.
JN: Can you tell us who you are?
CC: My name is Chiedza Chipangura (popularly known as Dr. ChiChi). I’m a miner and an advocate for women empowerment in the mining sector. I am the Zimbabwe Miners Federation Chairperson for Mashonaland West Province. Founder of Norton Miners Association and Women Empowerment in Mining Zimbabwe.
JN: Can you tell us your journey into mining so far?
CC: It has been an intriguing journey more like a bed of roses with its thorns surpassed by its beautiful petals and sweet aroma. I have faced lots of challenges, burnt fingers and experienced celebrations which gave me the urge to keep on keeping on.
I lost some money in 2018 after investing in an organized illegal chrome mining project. It taught me to formalize my operations.
At one stage I almost got myself involved in a flat fight with my mining partner. That is when I learnt the importance of documenting every agreement and activity of my project.
I got into gold mining with a misguided assumption that l was going to make money as quick as possible. I went on to sell my car but eishhh gold mining taught me patience and endurance.
There are too many great lessons that I learnt. I have had access to trainings through civic society organisations, made vital networks, travelled in Africa. The most self-fulfilling aspect is the impact I have made in helping other women through different mining processes and now l’m happy my mining projects are beginning to pay back the fruits of my hard work.
JN: What challenges do you face as a woman miner?
CC: As a woman there are peculiar challenges like the challenge of gender stereo typing whereby cultural myths come into play, and these are very peculiar in gold mining where you are treated as a hindrance as (the biblical Jonah) who hindered the movement of the boat, the ship was sinking because Jonah was in it. As a woman you are looked at as the one who stops the gold from coming out when you are at your menstruation cycle, you are looked at otherwise.
There is a time especially in gold mining when you’re in mining you get to that tracer which looks like you are about to get to the gold and as the boys continue sinking they don’t get to the belt, they look at you otherwise.
Sometimes they even look at you to then say look ma’am, are you okay have you not breached any taboos or ma’am can we go then and consult the traditional healers yet, you actually have your own beliefs that do not encourage you into consultation of these traditional healers.
It’s really a challenge, we are living in a patriarchal society where nobody gives you positive energy. You really have to look for that other woman that is also sincere enough to encourage you. Some will try to influence you to think that you’re not lucky enough or this is not meant for you so there is so much negative energy from the society which we operate in as women.
There is also the challenge of access to funding, there has been the gold initiative fund but as women we couldn’t access it because there were some requirements, they need collateral. Most women don’t have collateral in form of houses because houses are the ones which are of high value.
You might own a car but your car is valued at $ US3 000 definitely you can’t get a loan for three thousand. You’re then given a loan for US $1000, it’s not even enough to buy you the compressor that you want, so basically, on the issue of funding women don’t have required collateral to access funding.
Naturally mining has been termed a male environment so as women we are lagging behind, there is a huge knowledge gap, a serious knowledge gap. We don’t really know that you can really hire somebody to do the timbering of your own shaft but as an individual you are the owner.
There is that knowledge gap in terms of operations, it is serious and we need to constantly get training for that but look we are now adults .We are almost in our 50s and it’s time to be looking for money. l won’t be able to go back to school to sit on a desk for 3 years so we end up doing short cuts.
The issue of lack of funding is the one that causes mine accidents as well because we end up doing what we can afford, in the process taking shortcuts. At the end of the day we are women as well we are the ones who suffer the most.
Whenever there is a mine collapse even if it’s not my child or it’s not my mine l’m also affected seeing another woman mourning the child that has died. It’s a problem particularly to women. Yes the mine would have collapsed they can reopen the mine but will that woman regain her child, husband, brother, son-in-law?
It’s the woman’s loss whenever there is a mine accident. It’s the woman who is asked to sit in that corner that mourning corner, crying, even if it is your daughter’s husband you’re supposed to sit in that corner. So women are basically affected way more than the men within the mining industry.
When it comes to law enforcement agencies we know most operations take short cuts and we can’t fund our operations but at the same time as a woman you suffer more because you don’t have the money to bribe the law enforcement agents and when the EMA people come, you need to pay them so that they are off your back.
When the police come you need to pay them off. RDC Officials they can be after your case, their fees are exorbitant .They are not affordable to artisanal and small scale miners thereby women sometimes are forced into sexual relationships, its sextortion .
They are being sexually exploited to get favours from these men so that they don’t get their mines closed so that they continue operating. So women have all these challenges that are different from men.
JN: What challenges are there in mining generally?
CC: There is a serious challenge regarding the marketing of minerals, yes for gold it’s not as bad because it is a ready to sell product. Gold currently is at 51 dollars per gram but out there they sell at 41 dollars and you won’t hesitate selling it because you will be considering the hustle and costs of going to Harare to the nearest Fidelity point.
It is then bought on the black market. Also for you to travel all the way to Harare, the boys (employees) will be waiting for the money.
We don’t do salaries we do shares so by the moment you’re done they will be waiting for their money. So you end up selling the precious metal on the black market and my call as a woman miner is for Fidelity to have gold buying points out there so that it will become easy for women to sell their gold and make real money as compared to what we get on the black market.
In the Chrome sector because of covid most buyers have not been coming because before we used to get South Africans, we used to get Russians and we would know that if the Russians come the price increases. The Chinese buyers buy with the rate that they want.
Right now they are buying at 30/40 dollars. Your only profit is 10 dollars. Your life as a miner will not change. Sometimes you think of giving up but you end up going back. So the issue is on the market, if organisations like ZMF and MMCZ would come and buy they would buy at a better rate.
The glitter stone industry is one industry that we are suffering in big time. There is no market at all. The market has been hugely depressed.
Yes before the land reform programme glitter stone was exported and miners used to sell even to local companies who would then export but that market has since dried and has also been affected by the coming in of ceramic tiles which are a substitute for glitter stone when it comes to flooring. However, our people do not know the advantages of the glitter stone because it is one material which lasts longer.
The issue of markets is a critical one. We look at the gemstone industry, the gemstones are of value but nobody is buying them openly. There is no official market for them thereby women miners are being taken advantage of by those buyers from the black market.
The issue of funding is not only peculiar to women only and to other men as well. l was interviewing different ladies from my organisation those who have made it are those who had access to funding.
The moment they get funding those who benefited from the gold initiative fund saw their production increasing overnight.
It doesn’t take a month for a miner to yield results because when somebody says ‘ l have been mining for seven years, ten years and l started to see the gains’ it is because they haven’t really been mining for ten years it means they had lost time for maybe eight years and two years is the actual time that they have mined.
Because they do not have the resources there is too much downtime so the issue of funding is a huge challenge that hinders progress, limits production, it creates corners unnecessary corners, it creates mining accidents because everything is not done above board.
There is also political interference when there is a gold rush in a certain area. There are those who then abuse their political power. I know there is no political party in this country that encourages such grabbing of mining areas or such misconduct but there are certain people who hide behind certain political parties to bulldoze where there’s a mine .
l have seen in our province in Mash West there is a certain area where there is a gold rush and there are two parties all from the same political party fighting to lay their hands on the special ground.
JN: How do you balance your role as a miner and a mother?
My secret to balancing off is delegation as a mother l can’t call myself a housewife, housewives of my nature are never there. l don’t do house chores. Whenever l have time l’m relaxed that’s when l sit down to cook that’s when l sit down to watch television with the rest of the family.
Thank God lm a mother of grownups l don’t have much of a challenge when it comes to that. My grandchildren just come to visit because usually l won’t be around.
JN: You have glitter stone, chrome and gold claims at once, how do you manage yet you are alone?
l delegate ,l get professionals to do things. l get someone who knows what they are doing. l can spend 7 days without going home without worrying but l have a poultry project that’s at the plot and also gardening project because there are people who are good who are there. All l do is sit down on my phone and ask how things are going.
l make sure that l please my employee so that they also do good things for me also. Everyone likes to lead, even the maid l tell her that she is the mother of the house. I’m the financier, this house runs in this way and that way yes she is bound to make mistakes but 90% of the time or 80% of the time she does it well.
JN: How many people are you employing?
The glitter stone projects employs 15 people but here and there according to demand. If the order is demanding and the deadline is close we also take casual workers. Basically 15 people are there on the ground to run the operations.
I’m doing chrome as part of a syndicate. We are employing 16 people as a group and for my gold project l have about 12 employees plus the manager and a guy who comes in part time. 12 people on the ground at any given time. It’s still a small operation .We are not yet making money, things are really promising and we are still shaft sinking.
JN: What’s your advice to women who wants to venture into mining?
CC: Mining is the only business in this country where you get foreign currency, mining has got a potential to grow.
Yes we have been marginalised but we can’t keep mourning , just get up and go, don’t focus on the challenges, because there are there even at your homes so mining challenges are the ones which sharpen us and make us brilliant miners and there are the ones which give us money but we can overcome them.
Mining challenges are all learning curves, they take you somewhere so l encourage every woman , ,my signature statement whenever l’m interviewed is that “Get up you Zimbabwean women ,mining is your birth right it’s not a mistake that you were born in Zimbabwe where you are allowed to do mining.”
So if you do not get your mining rights and start mining it means you are surrendering a portion of your rights to the next person who will come and take over your rights which you were supposed to enjoy. You must enjoy the milk and honey for Zimbabwe so get up, be involved because mining is money.
If you are a woman and you would like to share your journey in mining and agriculture get in touch with Jeoffrey Ncube on 0776302592.Email [email protected].