Women bear the brunt of the effects of mining activities on or near their land – a suffering made worse by state disdain for, and abandonment of, poor women in South Africa. Women are the least likely to be employed in mining operations, they carry the costs of care work associated with pollution of the air and water, they are often the small holder farmers who lose their land to mining operations and face the dire consequences of the social upheaval and influx of people into new mining operations.
It is no surprise, then, that Mam’ Fikile refused to give up her home and her livelihood for exploitation by a mining company. She and other women in her position have learned not to trust the motivations of mining companies and their cronies in government.
It is also no surprise that, in the wake of Mam’Fikile’s violent assassination, the state has shown complete disregard and a sheepish reluctance to hold anyone to account.
The message is clear: The lives of women in mining-affected communities are disposable.
A 2018 survey in mining-affected communities in South Africa found that only 17% of women have benefitted from mining activities in their area. Most women (59%) rely on social grants as their primary source of income. Work in the mines, 40% of women indicated, is only available in return for sexual favours.
Without the financial means to support themselves, women remain dependent on men and are unable to leave oppressive and often abusive relationships. The vast majority of women surveyed, a full 85%, felt that the presence of mines, and the resultant increase in migrant labour, lead to an increase in violence against women.
WAMUA and MACUA have fought hard over many years to insist that women and communities who bear the cost of mining must be seen as full stakeholders with the same status as business, government and organised labour. There is still a fundamental gap between the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and realising gender equity. Women remain an underrepresented and under respected constituency- on the odd occasions where community consultation is engaged in it is often through traditional leadership (mostly male) or conducted through a patriarchal lens that assumes men to be naturally heads of households and therefore worthy of engaging.
Policies introduced to address gender-based violence and the subjugation of women will always have limited effect if ‘women’s rights’ is seen as a separate issue, to be legislated and monitored only by those especially tasked to do so. All policies must be gender-sensitive and aimed at undoing the oppressive position of women in South African society.
Economic exclusion is gender-based violence. Poverty is gender-based violence. Attacks on human rights defenders are gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is weaved into every part of life for women in mining-affected communities.
It is for this reason that WAMUA demands 365 days of Activism against gender-based violence and justice for Mam’Fikile.
We demand legitimate consultation on all issues affecting our bodies, families, land and lives.
Women have the right to say NO without fear and intimidation!
Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA), will protest the violent, deliberate and structural marginalisation of women in the mining and extractive sector. WAMUA will be holding several protest actions from the 25th November to the 10th December, paying homage to the women of this country who continue to live under a neo colonial toxic patriarchy.
For inquiries, please contact:
- Francina Nkosi, Acting- National Convenor, +27 72 877 9972
- Fatima Vally, Programmes Director MACUA / WAMUA Advice Office, +27 76 838 3038
Read more about the organisation at http://www.macua.org.za.