Media Exclusion, A contributor to under/Misrepresentation & Lack of Visibility of Women in the ASM Sector

WOMEN IN ASM AT WORK: Women in ASM play a crucial initial role in breaking the rocks before they are put in the Ball Mill, famously known as ‘Krasha’, but are paid Tzs. 1,000 for crushing 50 kg sack of rocks. PHOTO by Evans Rubara

According to Southern Africa Gender and Media Progress Study – GMPS 2020, women constitute only 22% of news sources coverage.

The study shows that women’s voices are constantly missing from the news across the various sectors where it constitutes 15% in the science and health, 20% in sports and19% in government and the economy.

The same study indicates that stories on key gender areas including gender-based violence, gender equality and HIV were the fewest among the documented news where GBV constituted only 2.1% and gender equality making only 0.9%.

Of the stories documented, most stories (77%) did not challenge any stereotypes, meaning that these stories continue to support the status quo, perpetuating stereotypes and failing to change the narrative about women. While these numbers may be worrying, stories covering women in Artisanal and Small-scale Miners may be less in this spectrum due to the nature of the sector, context and priority.

In Tanzania, it is estimated that, there are between 1 to 1.5 million Artisanal and Small-scale Miners. Although women are estimated to represent between 25% and 30% of the Tanzania ASM workforce they are often overlooked in both government and private policy formulation, implementation and plans whereas they do not enjoy the same opportunities around access to, control over and benefit from Artisanal and Small-scale Mining activities in their communities.

This exclusion means that women are also under-represented and/or negatively represented in the media both traditional and nontraditional both as sources and researchers of issues.

Evidences from comments by participants attending the training for journalists, organized by Foundation for ASM Development (FADev), showed how women and gender issues are portrayed in the media. The latter contributes to increased exclusion and injustices against women in the ASM sector.

Although evidence shows that, over the past three decades, gender discourse in Artisanal and Small-scale Mining have been shifting, the reporting in these areas remain to be the same.  Prior to the 1990s, the ASM sector was largely viewed as illegitimate and a threat to the more efficient and profitable industrial mining sector. So did the role of women.

Literature in this time and beyond depicted the impacts of Mining on women and women bodies- placing women SSM as receivers of favors and handouts- but not necessarily key players and thought leaders in the sector.

In the early 2000s, the discourse on the gender and ASM sector began to shift, where a new focus was placed on the income-generating opportunities for women involved in the various stages of mineral extraction.

Over this period also, the focus of research   shifted from an emphasis on the negative impacts of artisanal mining on women and children, the natural resource base, and labor violations to the important economic roles of women in the sector.

While this shift has been necessary, participants in the training said that reporting in this area has remained the same, depicting women Artisanal and Small-scale Miners as unskilled and working in the regular supporting role in the supply chain.

Women in ASM also act as tellers, whether the rocks blasted have gold or not. This process is known in Swahili as “Kupiga Chabo”. PHOTO: by Evans Rubara

Making Women Artisanal and Small-scale Miners visible is one of the strategic ways in influencing government policies, budget and plans to be inclusive of this important group.

The kind of visibility needed in these areas refers to those stories, articles and news which challenge status quo, masculinity and place women ASM as key players in the sector. This can be done by realizing the important role of journalists reporting gender in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Specifically, these news publications, articles and stories should:

  • ensure that the coverage of an event or issue is told through the voices of both women and men. Journalism is about people (women and men), and their interactions in their communities and other spaces.
  • use data, background information (context) and analysis through the perspectives of women and men to illustrate how the issue or policy reported on affects women and men in the sector or mining community
  • focus on the gender inequalities which are rampant in the ASM sector
  • focus on the political, economic and social rights violations of women in the ASM sector.
  • challenge power imbalances in both the public and private spheres (an example of power imbalances in the private sphere is the prevalence of various forms of violence against women and girls).

While the media have a crucial and increasing role in shaping the image of women in ASM, it should strive to reduce gender disparities in the ASM sector. In doing so, there will be an enhanced access to, control over, and benefit from resources, reduce gender-based violence in and around mine sites, and empower women and girls economically, socially and politically.

This is a kind contribution to Ms. Jovitha Mlay, a Gender Specialist, who graced FADev’s recent training to Journalists.

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