Newly published global report features BAN Toxics’ successful women empowerment initiatives in the small-scale mining sector

Newly published global report features BAN Toxics’ successful women empowerment initiatives in the small-scale mining sector

“Despite women holding up half the sky, they remain invisible in the mining sector. As we celebrate Women’s Month, it is crucial to recognize the value and significance of women miners and workers in small-scale gold mining, an already marginalized sector,” environmental NGO BAN Toxics said as the Philippine case made its way into a newly released global report.

The recent report by the World Bank on the status of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector highlights a case study conducted by BAN Toxics, focusing on its women empowerment initiatives within the Compassionate Gold program.

The report titled “2023 State of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector” focuses on the contributions of the ASM to the Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5): Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls.

Featuring 14 case studies contributed by 23 other organizations from Latin America, Africa and Mongolia, the report examines whether and how legal frameworks impede or promote women’s equality and empowerment in ASM. It also analyzes several other key barriers to women’s participation and empowerment in the sector, including social protections and access to occupational health and safety.

Challenges Faced by Women in ASM Sector

The country’s ASM sector plays a vital role in providing livelihoods, employing approximately 500,000 miners, and supporting millions of individuals. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization, between 18,000 to 20,000 women and children are engaged in ASGM-related employment in the Philippines.

“Patriarchal perspectives prevail in small-scale mining where women are relegated to auxiliary roles with unequal access to job opportunities and income. They engage in flexible and seasonal work in the sector, such as panning, sluicing, and cleaning, to earn supplemental income for their families. Women’s community management roles, such as processing papers and attending meetings and dialogues are

usually unpaid,” Arleen Honrade, co-writer of the study and BAN Toxics Community Development Officer, laments.

“Moreover, as women are often responsible for chemical processing, they conduct the mercury amalgamation, such as cooking the amalgam, disproportionately impacting them to the toxic effects of mercury,” Honrade elaborates.

The Delve report confirms that this societal experience of women in ASM permeates even at the institutional level through prejudicial and gender-blind legislation favoring mining as a male occupation where women’s issues are left out. Additionally, women’s limited involvement in project development exacerbates gender disparities within ASGM communities.

“The Philippine case is not far off from other countries. The 2023 State of the Sector study underscores the critical role of women in the ASM sector with an estimated 13.4 million women working in ASM worldwide, comprising 30% of the global 44.67 million ASM workforce. Women in the ASM face persistent legal, social, and economic challenges, aggravated by the gender-blind nature of mining laws, leading to discrimination and impeding their access to resources, education, and economic opportunities, placing their safety and well-being at risk,” said Jam Lorenzo, author of the study and BAN Toxics Research and Policy Officer.

The group stated that as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is poised to amend Republic Act 7076, also known as the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, there is the need to incorporate a gender perspective in the amendment process to account for differences in roles assigned to women, as well as biological, environmental, and other factors, for effective solutions. They also highlighted the importance of integrating a gender dimension into occupational safety and health laws in the country.

Empowering Women in Philippine ASM Communities Through Compassionate Gold

The case study presented by BAN Toxics shares the outcomes of its efforts to address gender inequity in the ASM sector through the Compassionate Gold program. Launched in 2018, Compassionate Gold serves as a flagship project by BAN Toxics aimed at contributing to the formalization of the artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector in the Philippines and the elimination of mercury use. It follows national and international standards such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, that of the Organization for Economic Cooperation, and international labor Standards and ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

“The Compassionate Gold program identified gender issues in the ASGM sector by utilizing a certification tool developed by BAN Toxics, aligned with international standards. Key issues include women balancing work and home responsibilities, their earnings being perceived as only “augmentative” rather than substantial contributors to family income, and the prevalence of gender-based violence,” Lorenzo said.

BAN Toxics addressed these issues through various activities with a special focus on community organizing, gender sensitivity training, regular gender mapping, and linking communities with government partners for livelihood development.

“Livelihood development projects were provided for women mining groups with individual complementary livelihood starter kits and financial assistance worth more than Php 800,000 from the Department of Labor and Employment. Skills and business training were conducted with the assistance of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Cooperative Development Authority, as well as the provision of seedlings, farm tools, and equipment from the Department of Agriculture for families seeking to shift away from mining-related work,” Andrade added.

“Gender is a cross-cutting issue and should be addressed from a multi-stakeholder perspective. There is a continuing need to educate both women and men about gender perspectives within the context of ASGM. Similarly, government stakeholders should be made aware of these issues,” Lorenzo said, highlighting some of the key learnings in the report.

For the recommendations, Lorenzo said “There is a need to emphasize the importance of conducting social research on the status of women in ASM and ensuring that gender is integrated into data collection and analysis. Affirmative action programs need to be developed and implemented to address gender inequalities and enable women to progress. Moreover, institutions must ensure that women participate in key community processes and train them to become independent skilled workers.”

BAN Toxics meanwhile further affirms its commitment to working with small-scale mining communities through Compassionate Gold and other programs, to achieve gender equality, empower women, and ensure the safety, prosperity, and dignity of all individuals involved in the ASM sector. (PR)