More than 600 women are known to be in the Mukungwe mining area. They carry out various activities, including business, prostitution, washing clothes, selling basic provisions and meat etc. Among those 600 women, there are known to be:
-178 sex workers, women and young girls, represented by Ms Celestine M’Kazihru;
– four women butchers, headed by Ms Nzigire Butako Cheusi;
– 52 women responsible for washing the clothes of the diggers, supervised by Ms Chireheza Ntamwira;
– 24 women responsible for canteens, headed by Ms Taku Busoga and Ms M’Karagi;
– 160 women beer-sellers, selling Primus and local beers, headed by Ms Barhachikubagirwa;
– 40 women selling firewood and sand to be used for filtering for gold, represented by Ms Nzita M’Kamakiri;
– 30 women selling bananas, sweet potatoes and other basic foodstuffs;
– 70 women selling “fufu”, a dish made from starchy vegetables, represented by Ms Mamy Faustin; and five women who draw water for the use of sex workers and their partners.
The main income-generating activities
Income-generating activities (IGAs) for women include prostitution and the sex trade, the most common activity for women and young girls. Other IGAs include selling items to meet basic needs, food staples, Primus beer, sweetmeats and the local Kasiksi beer.
Business fees vary, depending on the ore production but never fall below five dollars per woman or young girl. All the women are obliged to pay their fees to the managers of the mining area. They are also obliged to pay the ‘Chief Mother’ in charge of the area five dollars on arrival. There are further charges depending on the type of activities conducted.
All it takes is a $5 payment to the mining area managers, to get a place to work and business ID. This buys the right for a room in which to work. Age is not taken into account. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are rife, and the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS obvious. To be deplored is the brutality and violence frequently inflicted on women and young girls at this site. There are many deep and underlying reasons and causes as to the presence of women and young girls in this area – poverty, lack of education for young girls, widowhood, parental abandonment, death of a spouse, irresponsibility of the part of husbands or parents, crime and lack of employment among young girls or simply the quest to survive.
It should be pointed out that there is no prevention and protection mechanism in place for women and young girls to deal with the many forms of violence inflicted on them. However, CSO ASHADO organised two sessions aimed at publicising the law on sexual violence to the women supervisors, to the representatives of the different categories of worker, and to the young girls present in the Mukungweu mining area.
By Blaise MUKUBWA/ Ashado
(ASHADO (Association Africaine de Droits de l’Homme) is a local NGO based in Kinshasa that campaigns for human rights. It is a member of PWYP DRC)