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Women in Zambia bear the brunt of the harmful impact of mining

“I have never benefited anything from Mopani Mine and I have never liked anything from them.” - Margaret Chisanga, 40, resident of Kankoyo Township

Women face adverse effects from mining to a greater extent than men. This is not only through specific challenges faced by women, but also because they are left out of the many advantages that mines bring.

ActionAid Zambia has released a report highlighting the detrimental impact of mining on women. These include environmental pollution, social and cultural breakdown, increased cost of living coupled with destruction of means of earning a living and the exclusion of women in participation making.

The pollution has caused respiratory diseases particularly through the release of sulphur dioxide. In the water this has contributed to skin disease and has affected the sexual and reproductive health of women.  Women are not only more likely to get sick, they generally also have to have to look after others in the community who are sick.

The presence of mines has been associated with an increase in alcohol abuse and migrant labour, both of which have had a detrimental impact on families and the social fabric of communities living near mines.

Women are a lot less likely to be employed in mines than men. Yet, at the same time they are more likely to lose their chance of making a living be it through being displaced from land, losing access to natural resources or being removed from markets to sell their produce. The irony is that with the presence of mines, the cost of living in communities increases.

When compensation has been provided, it has been based on the losses for men. It is also normally given directly to the men and women have no access and control over it, again doubly disadvantaging women. This is due to women being generally marginalised from decision making.

The report highlights that urgent action is needed both by government and by the mining industry to address the issues faced by women. It includes a number of recommendations to the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, including expediting the land policy process and reviewing legislation such as the environmental impact assessment.

The study calls for greater participation and consultation of women in decision making in mining affected communities and explicit use of Free, Prior and Informed Consent by communities, particularly for women who are relocated as a result of mining.

Editors' notes

For more information, please contact Pamela Chisanga (ActionAid Zambia Country Director) on + 260 96 8673405 or Pamela.Chisanga@actionaid.org.