Extractive industry offers opportunity for women’s economic empowerment for women

As dawn breaks at Maji ya Chumvi Ward in Kwale County, Chinyaju Kaingi is optimistic that the day will bring in good tidings and reward her work.

Living each day at a time with the hope that things will get better for her family, Kaingi’s main concern is that she is able to provide at least one meal a day for her three children. This is what prompts her to rise up early every morning to prepare them before heading to the nearest quarry where she spends most of the day.

Life is a struggle for 25 year old Kaingi and she has to spend most of the day crushing stones for ballast with the aim of building up the pile for collection by brokers.  Many will agree that this is not the kind of work for women but for Kaingi, sitting under the scorching sun in the coastal region from 9.00 am until 3pm is the order of day.

She carries her three month old baby to the quarry site. “I struggle to pile enough ballast to fill one lorry. This will take about five days before the brokers can come and buy it at KSh2,500 per lorry,” Kaingi explains.

Challenges  

Kaingi confesses that sometimes she has for as long as one month for the ballast to be bought as there is a lot of competition from the young men who are able to  produce more within a short time.

Despite the challenges of lack of adequate equipment to crash the stones, she is grateful that she has something to do.  Kaingi’s husband also works at the quarry site and with the brokers and this helps her to sell what she has crushed.

At the quarry site, Kaingi is not alone, she is joined by other women who spend time at the quarry and compete for the same buyers. Due to the high level of poverty in the region, the women are at times forced to sell the ballast for as low as KSh1,500 just to put food on the table.

“We also work with men who also harass women. Some of the brokers demand for sexual favours before they can buy the ballast from them,” notes Kaingi.  Sexual violation cases at the quarry site are not reported due to deeply rooted cultural practice which stigmatises the victim more than the perpetrator. “Women are afraid of reporting to authorities for fear of victimization from community members.”

Kaingi represents scores of women working in the small scale mining industries.

According Geologist, Edward Omito, the most common minerals in Kwale County include ordinary sand, building stones and limestone.

Value chain

Women such as Kaingi belong to the category of small mining sector which is labour intensive but with very little returns. Most women lack the capacity and resources to actively participate in most profitable sectors within the extractives value chain.

According to Faith Kasiva, Team Leader on Social Economic Development in UN Women Kenya, small scale mining is often unstructured and data that should inform policy and decision making is, therefore, unavailable.

Lack of information makes it difficult to regulate the sector to make things better for women. It also makes it difficult to quantify the secondary impact of the effects of artisanal small scale mining.

Kenya’s extractives sector currently contributes approximately three percent of the total export revenues and one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This contribution is, however, estimated to grow to as much as 10 percent of GDP after 2020.

Women make a meaningful contribution in this sector but suffer from unfair trade

According to Omito, extractive industries can provide opportunities to women for better life including increased employment opportunities, access to revenues and expanded investment if they are assisted adequately to benefit from the supply chain.

Unfortunately, the extractive industries remain a male-dominated industry compared to the other industries. Small-scale women miners lack the requisite capacity to be able to negotiate for better contractual deals.

Negotiation Skills

Besides building their capacity to improve on their negotiation skills, Omito notes that women in the small-scale mining industry have to organise themselves in groups to boost their participation in the industry through marketing their products as well as to improve the value chain.

“There is still an opportunity for women in this sector through these organised groups to engage both county and national government for support and ultimately benefit of their communities.

As the women strive to improve their livelihoods, oblivious of what is happening around them, there is need for stakeholders to boost them to a more profitable level in the value chain.

Experts agree that voices of women in this sector must be heard. There is also need for a multi-sectoral approach to develop a strong business case for women as one of the possible solutions to assist them.