At an IndustriALL AngloGold Ashanti Global Network meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 5 May, affiliates from Argentina, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Guinea, South Africa and Tanzania agreed to intensify their campaign against rape, murder and sexual harassment of women mine workers.
The meeting saw the violence and gender discrimination at gold mines as health and safety issues. It called upon the DRC and Ghana to ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in mines.
Violence against women mineworkers took different forms in the AngloGold Ashanti global network countries, and affected women in physical, emotional and financial ways.
In South Africa, this violence is caused by a “masculinity culture” which sees mines as workplaces for men alone said Asanda Benya from the University of Cape Town.
Basing her views on a study in which she worked as a winch operator at a platinum mine in Rustenburg, she said “deep patriarchy” defined how women were treated.
For instance, when the mines hired women “heat tolerance screening” was a requirement. Sometimes women failed the screening because of pregnancy or menstruation.
When going underground women were groped daily. Their complaints to management or their unions about this abuse were dismissed as “nagging” or simply ignored.
Women were also excluded from learning the more important mining skills and reduced to domestic roles like getting water for team members. It was also common for male team members to say: “You are a woman; you can’t operate a drilling machine”.
As a result, women mineworkers lost on production bonuses because of these tactics.
Fabian Nkomo, IndustriALL Regional Secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said organizing more women in the mines is one of the strategies that can be used to fight gender stereotyping.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director said: “It is important to develop policies against sexual harassment from the perspectives of women mine workers. We are fighting for these policies because the neo-liberal capitalist system sustains itself through gender stereotyping”.