Women, many believe, will play a major role in the development of the economy and the mining sector, but there are issues of marginalisation, segregation, and discrimination against the female gender in the sector.
Also, there are concerns that women are still a minority in the sector, especially in the lower-paid categories compared to their male counterparts.
This imbalance creates conditions for sexual harassment and exploitation, with very little being done to change the culture operating within the closed mining environment.
Experts believe that the laws guiding the sector are not gender-friendly, since mining is stereotyped as a man’s job, and as such women are not involved in the decision-making processes.
They maintained that women hardly benefit from the corporate social responsibility (CSR), and are left poorer in mining communities because they have no access to funds either as individuals or groups in a cooperative setting.
Speaking at a Webinar organised by PwC, titled: “Assessing Nigerian Mining against Global Best Practices, President, Women in Mining (WIMIN), Janet Adeyemi, affirmed that the sector is male-dominated.
According to her, the intimidation of women in mining is a minus for the economy and called for balancing and equity for the development of the sector.
She said: “By virtue of our culture, Nigeria runs a patriarchy system of government. Everything is male-dominated. Even at home, when you are a woman you have to keep quiet. Meanwhile, women in Nigeria have played significant roles but what happened when the colonial masters came, they sent women back. They even preferred men to go to school to women.
“However, if you neglect almost 50 per cent of your population in any sector, where do you get the workforce to work for you? That is a minus for the economy of any country. This is why we keep preaching inclusion in mining; everybody needs to be included.”
Adeyemi noted that with the use of technology, women could be more occupied in the downstream than the upstream, and cited examples of some African countries that have deployed technology in carrying out major work in the sector.
She said: “Technology, smart innovations are coming up that give women the latitude to work. If you go to the Finland site and see what their women are doing, they use automated mining equipment for most of the job. Also, in Mali, where gold is mined, it is 100 per cent automated equipment. The women in these countries are more than the men working. In those days, engineering and geology is a no-go area for women, but now things are changed. More women are even going to school than men. Gender is not necessarily about women but balancing and equity.”
She noted that mining is a capital-intensive venture and involves lots of technicalities (sourcing for the mine site, obtaining permits, exploration works, dealing with community leaders in mining communities, setting up mines, equipment, site management, etc), which require external support.
On his part, the National President, Mining Association of Nigeria (MAN), Kabiru Mohammed, said there are efforts to bring on board the women in mining and share with them the knowledge and technicalities to move the sector forward.
He added that the role of women in the sector is key to its development, saying women are in the processing end of the industry.
He said: “Women are very much in gemstones, jewelry-making, and the likes. All these are part of mining; however, with the technology, they can do more in the mining field, in the bush, which in those days is more of the man’s job.
Technology has reduced the level of physical labour that women can be scared of. We have now come of age where we say we are not going to do anything without women. We want the women to understand that the umbrella is there to accommodate them so that we can collectively measure up with the agenda of the government, and the mission that everybody has so that the sector can move forward.
“We need all hands to be on deck, and we are ready to share the leadership with the women so that we can show the government that the miners both male and female are equal to the task. We are also ready to key in to find ourselves on the steering seat of the economic diversification agenda of the Federal Government especially when it comes to the mineral sector, which is the key point as to where the government can source for revenue.
“Oil is going, and the whole world is focusing on solid minerals, industrial, and others. We are ready to accept everybody. All the members of women in mining are our sisters, and we are ready to bring them on board, let them key in and together we can make a force to reckon with. We don’t have any problem with women. Together we can work together as a team.”