Empowering Women with Fairmined Gold

We are passionate about Fairmined Gold, proud to be a Licenced brand and honoured to use it to make our jewellery. Fairmined represents a positive story transforming an industry of controversial mining practices into one that empowers individuals and their communities, striving for better both socially and environmentally.  

With International Women's Day being celebrated globally this week, we wanted to celebrate the women involved in the artisanal small scale mining (ASM) community, sharing their reality with you.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Morgane Nzelemona (account manager at the Alliance for Responsible Mining) and in this post you will learn more on:

  • What is the Fairmined initiative
  • What challenges do women face in the artisanal small scale mining sector
  • How Fairmined works to empower Women and the communities
  • The positive environmental legacy 
  • How COVID-19 has affected the mining communities

 

Morgane Nzelemona- Fairmined

(Morgane Nzelemona, The Alliance for Responsible Mining)

 

To anyone that isn’t familiar with the Fairmined initiative, why is it so important and how exactly does it help to transform mining into a force for good?

The Fairmined initiative was created by the NGO Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), to improve the well-being of artisanal and small-scale miners and their communities worldwide. 

There are about 20 million people dedicated to gold mining and 100 million people depend on this activity to make a living. However, this sector still faces issues related to illegality, informality, child labour, gender inequality, poor health and safety at work and environmental destruction. 

The Fairmined label certifies small-scale mining organizations that have chosen to improve their practices, transforming mining into an activity that can be responsibly done, respecting human rights and the environment. 

The gold industry can support these organizations by including Fairmined certified gold in their sourcing models and paying the Fairmined premium, an economic incentive that allows mining organizations to invest in their technical, social, economic and environmental development.  

With the right support and recognition of the gold industry, these mining organizations can keep improving, generating a positive impact on their communities and offering the world responsibly mined gold that you can be proud of.

What challenges do women face entering the ASM sector ? Does gender impact job roles and opportunities? how does Fairmined work to change this? 

Women represent 30% of the people working in the ASM sector.  Mining communities are often marked by a strong sexist culture that limits women’s empowerment and access to opportunities. 

Gender inequalities are still a reality in this sector. 

Women of the sector mainly carry out informal activities.  Most of them perform peripheral activities such as gold panning and mineral selecting (which implies looking for gold left-over in the tailings discarded by male miners). When working in formalized organizations, most of them are delegated to carry out only supporting activities. 

Female miners also receive lower salaries. A survey lead by ARM in Colombia revealed that 81% of the interviewed women claimed to be paid less than their male counterparts. Artisanal women miners also tend to have more difficulties to obtain a fair price for their gold, as middlemen commonly pay them less than men. 

The women have still to face strong stereotypes that limit their opportunities to grow in the organizations: they are often seen as too fragile, not able to exercise management functions, incapable of conciliating personal and professional life … 

Last but not least, ASM women are also particularly exposed to gender-based violence: harassment, sexual and domestic violence can be commonplace in some communities.  

How does ARM and Fairmined help to empower these women and their communities? Do you have any individual stories you can recall?

To address this situation, the Alliance for Responsible Mining seeks to generate safer spaces for women and to guarantee a more egalitarian situation for women and men.  ARM has decided to focus on three types of actions to promote gender equality. 

First, ARM seeks to increase the economic empowerment, education and skills of the female miners. To do so ARM bet on the promotion and enhancement of the connection of the artisanal female miners by supporting the creation of female miners associations and helping them to diversify their skills and income sources. 

In Peru, for example, the Fairmined certified organization Macdesa has opened with Fairmined premium a workshop to produce uniforms. Thanks to this workshop, a group of mineral selectors received training to learn how to sew. This new workshop has provided women mineral selectors with working conditions and opportunities.   

In addition, ARM promotes the adoption of gender institutional politics within mining organizations. These politics are inspired by the main international norms and standards related to gender inequalities. They recommend six lines of action to fight gender inequalities : 

  • the promotion of women’s rights through the organization of frequent internal campaigns related to gender inequalities and the enforcement of their participation in decision-making processes.
  • the development of activities to prevent gender-based violence.
  • the adoption of concrete measures to ensure equality of opportunities between men and women such as the integration of more women in the selection process of the candidates, the guarantee of equal pay for men and women. 
  • the implementation of work practices that allows the conciliation of personal and professional life for women and men (maternity and paternity leaves, flexible working hours, subsidies for child care… )
  • the use of inclusive and no sexist communications that will support the cultural transformation. 
  • the promotion of new masculinities.

    Finally, ARM also seeks to mainstream the gender approach in its projects and standards.  The Fairmined standard which is currently under revision will see its gender component reinforced in order to guarantee that the gender gaps can be addressed. 

    With these actions, ARM looks for achieving a progressive transformation in the sector.|

    How does Fairmined work with mining communities to ensure a positive environmental legacy?

    The Fairmined initiative supports small-scale mining organizations to implement best mining practices that guarantee environmental protection by promoting reduction and elimination of chemicals in the extraction process, protection of water supplies, reforestation, adequate waste management, and reduction, and environmental awareness. 

    These practices contribute to the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 

    Certified small-scale mining organizations strive to improve their practices every day, proving that positive environmental and social impact can be part of the story behind gold. 

    female gold miner  

    What has the impact of COVID-19 been on female miners specifically, and why do we need to support buying Fairmined jewellery now more than ever?

    The global crisis caused by Covid-19 has an impact on all the actors in the gold supply chain. The miners are generally the most vulnerable group in this chain and the pandemic has had a direct impact on their lives. 

    Due to Covid-19, many artisanal miners haven’t been able to continue with the mining activity due to lockdowns, the prohibition of public gatherings and the closure of mining sites. As explained before women work predominantly as artisanal miners. Like their male counterparts, they often have little or no saving capacity and depend on their daily income to make a living. Mostly, they live in situations of extreme vulnerability where alterations in their income can have significant impacts on their livelihoods. In addition, female miners are very often mothers head of household, and as such have to sustain alone entire family. 

    With the pandemic, many female miners have been left without any resources and have been facing situations even more challenging than before as selling gold has also become more difficult during the past months.  

    No sales mean no income for most of these miners, which can lead to food insecurity in rural communities, especially in those that mainly depend on mining.

    This is why ARM launched last year a crowdfunding campaign to support over 140 artisanal miners’ families in Peru and Colombia, distributing food baskets in the peak of the pandemic.

    Artisanal miners and the Fairmined mining organizations are still suffering significantly from the impact of Covid and the drop in demand, and this at a time when the Fairmined premium would be essential to help them get back on track with their operations and support their affected communities. It is urgent to support these communities to avoid any further setbacks. 

    By choosing Fairmined, you can produce a real impact and allow hundreds of miners to keep working for a better future.