When we talk about gender and extractives, a lot of focus is rightly placed on the ways in which projects have a negative impact on women’s lives: from forcing them off their land to exposing them to higher risks of sexual violence.
However, the issues don’t only revolve around the harmful effects of extractive projects but also around the fact that women are not actively benefiting from extraction. After all, if natural resources are extracted it should be to the benefit of all citizens so that their lives can be improved.
If we take mining, what benefits could it bring? Mining can generate work and business, although women remain largely untapped in the mining work force, particularly in large-scale mining.
It is true that women make up a large proportion of those working in artisanal mining. Unfortunately, the lack of visibility of women in this field – and indeed the unregulated and informal nature of artisanal mining as a whole – makes it difficult for women to realise their full potential.
Women have also adopted income generating activities that spring around a mine and its informal economy: for instance brewing and selling beers or washing clothes for the workers. But a little training and capacity building could help women turn these small-scale activities into more sustainable businesses. This is something for which we advocate in our gender responsive chain for change (which is still a work in progress).
That’s why it was so interesting to stumble across this story, about a program which offers training to business women in mining communities in Chile (Calama, Caldera, Copiapό and Tierra Amarilla) and Peru (Arequipa).
Thunderbird School of Global Management ‘uses interviews, quizzes and television dramas’ to teach women business skills. Their latest project is aimed for women who own small or medium sized businesses so that can ‘grow and increase their income’.
As it turns out, this project is being supported by the mining company that operates in the region, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold.
This raises a range of questions to consider – are CSR activities useful mechanisms through which to empower women in mining communities? Will they prove sustainable or be genuinely integrated within the community? Finally, do projects such as these detract from other gender questions mining companies should be pressed on, or do they complement them?