The purpose of the study (available in spanish) is to help comprehend gender inequalities in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) through the thoughts, outlooks and perceptions of miners about them; as well as analyze the regulations and public policies that apply to the mining sector from a gender perspective.
The study was performed in nine municipalities of three departments of Colombia, where coal and gold artisanal and small-scale mining is carried out: Boyacá, Antioquia and Cauca. 513 miners – men and women who engage in various forms of mining activities – also took part in the study.
The work shows that the gender gap is a reality in the mining world, which has traditionally involved men; and while there are women that have also been traditionally involved in mining, their participation is limited to secondary roles. With most being in charge of a family, women mostly dedicate themselves to subsistence, low-level mining amid highly precarious working and economic situations. While they are proud of being miners and have a strong identity, the sector’s adverse conditions lead most of them to consider moving on to working jobs that offer them better conditions. Furthermore, these women would like to study if it were possible, even though their workloads and the care of their families leaves little time to invest on themselves, whether on leisure, study or simply rest.
Gender stereotypes and the sex-based division of work still respond to classical patriarchal patterns, even though changes have been observed in younger miners. This reflects the recognition of sexual diversity: while interviewed miners claimed that a person’s recognition is given by that person’s working skills, and not from his/her sexual orientation or identity, they say that they are not aware that sexual diversity exists in the sector, which ultimately turns the subject into a taboo. Another important aspect identified during this study is the strength of the association between strength, masculinity and mining, which constitutes the main argument to limit women’s participation in the sector.
Based on the foregoing, education and specialized training are urgent needs, because they are the central strategy to overcome existing gender gaps, supported by stereotypes and prejudices that limit women’s opportunities. Which is why it is important to mention that the access to training has opened up the world of mining to many women, since with the exception of subsistence mining (barequeo, ore selection or chaterreo), traditional manual and unskilled work in the sector is denied to them. Because of this, there are a few women carrying out security, administrative and supervision duties scattered across various mines, along with others that work on different crafts. The progressive incorporation of young, skilled women brings a glimmer of hope for change in the situation of women miners.
The enforcement of regulations and laws needs to advance steadily, which demands a more active posture from administrations. Despite there being a legal framework that protects women and the LGBTI population in Colombia, the study has evidenced a lack of gender focus in mining policies and regulations, especially when it comes to guaranteeing equality to the most vulnerable women miners.