Luz Myriam Palacios,
“The women united surely won’t be defeated”
Luz Myriam, from Boyacá, Colombia, is a down-to-earth, empowered woman and a fighter. Her voice doesn’t shake when the time comes to assert her rights and those of her fellow women miners.
Luz Myriam has experienced the discrimination of women in the mining sector first hand, but she is proud of her work and says she will keep fighting for all women to have the same rights as men. “The idea is for all women to take charge of their role and collaborate to support their family, because when men are the only source of income, women become dependent. And it is because of this dependency that women have to endure a lot. An empowered woman, who is educated and is able to carry out an activity, a woman who has a project and an income will surely change her way of thinking.
Luz adds, “Women united will surely not be defeated. We want men to know what a woman is, and that behind her are 30 or 40 more that will protest and take action, so that violating our right will not be that easy”.
The path to autonomy
Luz Myriam is the president of the Asociación Mujeres Mineras Emprendedoras (AMME) of Boyacá, which was created through the project Somos Tesoro, with the aim of empowering the role of women miners in this Colombian department. “When we developed the project with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), it was clear that women were discriminated against in this sector, and we started working with them to empower them and give them a course of action they can rely on if they feel violated”.
Luz says that “it is complicated for women to be part of the mining sector, as there is a lot of abuse. Boyacá is a very sexist department, where many believe that women are supposed to stay home, and men go to work. This causes a lot of family violence”.
Luz is an environmental engineer with a specialization in project management and she is the head of the coal-mining organization Los Límites de Sogamoso, in Boyacá. “Becoming the head of the mining organization and managing men has been complicated, especially with the adults who have the concept that a woman cannot be their boss. My mother cannot give me orders, nor can my wife, so why would I listen to you”, explains Luz. Sha also adds that “there are cases of harassment, in which a woman wearing tight trousers can be touched or called names, which can be shouted and of a sexual, denigrating nature”.
Generations of hovels and coa
“I owe everything to mining”, says Luz Miryam. “I come from a family of mining tradition; my pparents, my grandparents, have always been miners. My husband is a miner, he’s a mining engineer”. Luz grew up in a poor family, but thanks to her parents’ effort and hard work their situation changed. “My father started increasing the number of mines he was in charge of, and my mother was able to stop working and stay home.”
Luz grew up with 4 siblings, and she recounts that her brothers worked in the mine half day, from 5 to 11, and then went to study while Luz and her sister would make lunch, wash their uniforms and do housework. This was until they graduated from high school. After they all got into university and left the countryside. Her parents kept working at the mine, but only in the administrative part”.
When she got married, Luz started managing mining units with her husband and to work as the head of staff and the responsible for environmental and safety work.
Proud women miners
Luz explains that today women miners “want to show what they are capable of. It is hard work. Not physically, but for the courage it requires. Many people are not able to enter a mine, so when a woman does, she is demonstrating that she is competent and can lead men, take care of their security and make sure they are safe at work every day”.