Kamituga, Democratic Republic of the Congo – The mining town of Kamituga is located in an area with vast mineral resources estimated to be worth $24 trillion in untapped deposits, but despite that the region has one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world.
Women from the town are leading a revolution that is helping not only to change the image of this west African country, but also that of the artisanal mining sector (AMS) that provides livelihoods to a large number of people.
According to the mining code first drafted in 2002 and amended on March 9, 2018, artisanal mining activity is “every activity, where a person from Congolese nationality performs either the excavation or concentration of mineral resources, using artisanal tools, methods and procedures, within an area characterised by a limited size and a depth that can’t be over thirty meters”.
So far, artisanal mining has only been known for its outpouring of corruption and child labour.
However, since 2006, women have started to unite in associations and 10 years later have gotten together around a tightly-knit network known by the French acronym of RENAFEM (National Network of Women in Mining).
“In Congo being a woman is the greatest challenge,” says Angelique Nyirasafari, a distinguished mineral trader operating in Masisi territory of North Kivu province. “Women have been discriminated for so long that they started to believe they are inferior to the men, and that’s why men feel legitimised to behave as if they were really superior.”
Thanks to RENAFEM, many women have gained better awareness on their legal and reproductive rights.
Nevertheless, the journey Congolese women must undertake to fully emancipate within the AMS is still long, and doesn’t end here.
In order for women’s social growth to rise at the same pace as economic growth as well as to see a tangible improvement in the life of all women miners, it is the institutions that must intervene.
“Congo is a jungle, where impunity, bad administration and injustice are very widespread,” claims Angelique Nyirasafari, one of the women leaders. “Justice is part of the transaction and those who don’t have money don’t get to be listened to.”