The national human rights body and the mining workers’ union have pointed out that a non-conducive environment for women in the mines is one of the stumbling blocks for them to venture into the mining sector.
The issue was raised at the release of findings from a survey conducted in 2021 by the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) on the state of human rights respects in the mining sector.
The report was released on Friday January 28.
The study was conducted in 91 mining sites in 15 districts of Rwanda.
The Chairperson of NCHR, Marie Claire Mukasine, said that based on the survey conducted in comparison with the previous ones, there has been a significant increase in performance across different indicators in the mining sector.
However, she said that despite the mining sector ranking the second income-generating sector in Rwanda, there is still a gap in women participation as investors or employees in a mining site.
According to the report, female mining engineers are 26.23% while the mining site female owners are just 5.41%
It also says that women are paid the same as men for work of equal value, however, many women are not allowed maternity leave due to the informal employment conditions.
According to Andre Mutsindashyaka, the Secretary General of Rwanda Extractive Industry Workers Union (REWU), there are different reasons for gender gap in the mining sector including the fear of the physical energy it takes to work in the mine, and lack of appropriate breastfeeding places for mothers.
“First of all, women have to change their mindsets regarding the sector, they should be confident to work in this field which evidently has money,” he said.
Another issue raised by the rights body is the lack of employment contracts in the sector.
“The mining sector has evolved and those who are involved are licensed but on-ground miners still work under informal settings, they don’t have employment contracts which deprives them of certain employment benefits,” said Mukasine.
The report recommends that more investments should be done in acquiring and employing improved equipment to resolve the problem of poor production affecting workers’ remuneration, hence, their livelihoods.
On the other hand, Mutsindashyaka said that the fact that Rwanda does not have an established minimum wage is also a challenge faced by many in the mining field “there is little to no room for a worker to negotiate his or her wage.”
“There are different activities done before they get to mineral resources, even though there might be no production on a given day, that worker deserves to be paid for what they did,” he emphasized.
Mining operations are currently carried out by mining companies and cooperatives in over 3,000 mining sites across the country.
In 2019 before the Covid-19 outbreak, the mining sector employed approximately 71,205 workers. Due to the slowdown in mining and mining processing operations as a result of the pandemic, the number fell by 19 per cent to 57,379 workers, as reported by the Rwanda Mining Board in June 2021.
To recover from Covid-19 effects, it was hoped that the number of jobs in the mining and extraction sector could increase to 100,000 jobs in 2021.
This content was originally published here.