Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM)

7. Women in ASM

In many countries women comprise 40 to 50 percent of the artisanal and small-scale mining workforce. This compares favourably to large- scale mining which is estimated to comprise less than 10 percent of women.

Women are therefore an essential part of ASM of activities and make up a significant share of the ASM labour force. However, they are largely confined to less well-paid activities such as carrying and processing ore by breaking rocks, renting pans, shovels and other simple equipment, selling refreshments and food, and panning or sieving for gold and diamonds. As in other sectors, studies have shown that the additional income women earn from ASM is often used to invest in household needs and to support their children through education, as well as other positive development impacts due to women's economic empowerment.

The participation rates of women in ASM decline as the degree of organisation and mechanisation increases. Women experience particular challenges and gender-based discrimination in the acquisition of mining licenses and titles and the running of ASM operations. Often societal and cultural norms and perceptions mean women face additional difficulties when hiring and managing labourers, securing bank loans, buying land, and applying for licences. All of these steps may require the approval and signature of a male relative or husband.

Additional challenges to the full and equal participation of women in ASM, include practical issues such as the lack of separate changing, washing and sanitation facilities at mine sites, and affordable child care arrangements meaning some women have to bring their children to work with them.

Furthermore, women are more disadvantaged than men in ASM and face particular challenges that are often linked to gender based discrimination and inequality in society more broadly, such as access to education and additional responsibilities often referred to as the ‘triple burden’ (reproductive work, productive work, and community management work).

While ASM creates economic opportunities and empowerment for women, it can also perpetuate inequalities and expose women to additional dangers.