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Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in Mining

Since 2016, KIT Royal Tropical Institute has supported the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to develop a global leadership role to facilitate experience sharing and policy influencing on gender equality integration in the mining sector.

MFA leads the Women’s Rights and Mining (WRM) multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to establish a better understanding of gender dimensions of mining and create awareness and secure commitment to take action and uphold women’s rights in mineral supply chains. The Ministry has led this initiative since 2017.

Check out the Women’s Rights and Mining 2019 Statement on Implementing Gender-Responsive Due Diligence and Ensuring the Human Rights of Women in Mineral Supply Chains. Or read the new paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Mining in Africa.

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Why gender matters in the mining world

All over the world, mineral production and mineral supply chains are recognised for their potential to catalyse economic growth and spur development. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that current mining policy and practice can actually worsen gender inequalities if gender concerns are not adequately considered. Although every site, community and context is unique, every facet of the mining sector differently impacts and benefits women and men. These gender differences can be found at all levels, from production sites, in mining-affected communities, in local and national economies, upwards across mineral supply chains and in all institutions involved – from government offices and company boardrooms to mine sites and households.

Growing momentum on gender equality in the minerals sector

Therefore, interest has been growing in addressing gender and mining issues in artisanal and small-scale mining as well as in the formal large-scale mining sector. Many international stakeholders have become active in this field, such as the World Bank, the OECD, GiZ and Global Affairs Canada. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also finances a number of projects on gender and mining by Dutch and international civil society organisations.

Positioning the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a leader in gender and mining

Beginning in 2016, KIT, through the Gender Resource Facility (GRF), conducted a study for the Ministry on gender in artisanal and small-scale mining in the African Great Lakes Region. The study aimed to advance gender equality in the Dutch-funded Scaling up Minerals Traceability Project, and it recommended that the Ministry contribute to defining a comprehensive strategy to advance gender equality in the minerals sector.

The GRF subsequently engaged in two assignments to assist the Ministry to realise this ambition. The assignments focused on:

Who is active at the nexus of gender and mining?

Following the study on gender dimensions in the mining sector, KIT, through GRF, undertook work to map and convene key actors and initiatives on gender and mining in the Netherlands and globally. The Ministry and GRF convened a Learning and Sharing meeting which brought together participants from across government, private sector and civil society. This meeting demonstrated that multiple Dutch actors have expertise working at the nexus of gender and mining in a range of different geographies and in different thematic areas.

Building on this meeting, GRF prepared a quick scan of eight actors and alliances in the Netherlands and ten actors internationally, who were featured based on their strategic engagement in gender and mining. The quick scan can be accessed here.

Furthermore, as a concrete follow-up to the Learning and Sharing meeting a community of practice dedicated to gender and mining was established. Thus in early 2017, the Women’s Rights and Mining Working Group (WRMWG) came into being as a collaborative effort of NGOs, researchers and the Ministry to secure commitments from key stakeholders in the mining sector to address key gender concerns. Members of the group included MFA, Action Aid The Netherlands, Simavi and Solidaridad – as well as GRF.

Women’s Rights and Mining

From 2017 onwards, KIT’s assistance has focused on strengthening the visibility, outreach and influence of the Ministry-led Women’s Rights and Mining initiative (WRM). WRM is a collaborative effort of NGOs, knowledge institutions and government organisations (including MFA, Global Affairs Canada, and GiZ) to secure commitments from key stakeholders in the mining sector to address gender concerns.

The Mission & Vision of WRMWG

Mission: To generate momentum and action among and by different stakeholders in support of women’s rights in mines and in mining affected communities.

Vision: A mining sector and mining-affected communities in which women, men and children benefit equally and enjoy all rights enshrined in international recognized human rights standards and regulations.

Women’s Rights and Mining

WRM is engaged in a range of activities, in particular:

  1. WRM organises gender sessions at important international mining meetings to ensure discussions on women’s rights are  in the mainstream of the sector. For example, in the last three years WRM has worked with the OECD Secretariat to organise a gender session during OECD’s yearly Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains.
  2. To increase the gender responsiveness of mining policy and practice, WRM regularly contributes to stakeholder consultations and reviews of international mining policies, regulations, standards and guidelines – more than 10 have been undertaken since 2017. A recent example of WRM’s impact on policy  concerns the Manual of the Regional Certification Mechanism  of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region. Based on WRM’s feedback, Audit Committees are now required to ensure adequate representation of women’s rights and human rights organisations and equitable representation of women and men on the committee. Also, the manual now explicitly requires measures to protect the wellbeing of potential or actual victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the context of audit-related interviews.
  3. WRM also supports the development of knowledge products and tools to strengthen gender risk mitigation strategies and address gender concerns in mineral production. For example, the “10 DO Fact Sheets” on gender-responsive due diligence, the Encyclopedia on Gender and Mining – a joint publication of GIZ and WRM, as well as half-yearly newsletters.
  4. Last but not least, WRM takes the initiative to secure commitment from governments, civil society and companies in the mining sector to uphold women’s rights. The WRM-OECD Stakeholder Statement on Implementing Gender-Responsive Due Diligence and ensuring the Human Rights of Women in Mineral Supply Chains is a broad-based call for support and action to uphold women’s rights. By June 2020, 34 organisations have signed-on to the Statement, which includes various commitments on how states, the private sector and civil society can work together to prevent gender inequalities along the supply chain. For example, the Statement:

The Statement is based on the spirit of inclusive partnerships, in that each sector – government, the private sector and civil society – has a unique role to play in ensuring that women’s rights are realised in mineral supply chains. No one sector can attain this ambition alone but results can be achieved together.

Women’s Rights and Mining has succeeded in making good progress towards its mission. Awareness of gender concerns in the minerals sector and how to address them has been promoted amongst diverse actors, and a lot of interest in and support to gender integration into mining and mineral supply chains has been generated.


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