The Women in Mining Lekgotla 2012 was an initiative by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Ms. Susan Shabangu, to provide a blueprint for new gender sensitive health and safety standards for the SA mining industry.
The key issues that were addressed at the Lekgotla were: the continued call for meaningful transformation not only at ownership level, but also relating to the culture and attitudes in the workplace:
- The issues of safety, security and health of women in mining, with a focus on sexual harassment; and
- The physical constraints experienced by women on the technical side of mining.
As the different speakers addressed the audience, a number of issues came forth sparking a vigorous debate. It was such an honour to have been picked as one of the delegates from Kalagadi Manganese and to be amongst so many great and inspirational women of our country. It was equally exhilerating to be part of a contingent of women, who are continuously striving to bring about change in the mining sector.
The main issues discussed included:
Safety and security for women miners: Prof May Hermanus
Prof Hermanus discussed the safety and security challenges that women face in mines, such as the weight of the safety gear that women have to wear underground, sexual harassment and the restrictions imposed by the medical tests on women, for example: the heat resistance test also known as “ukuTjhongola” in the mining dialect, called Fanakalo.
Women were also warned against the unbecoming culture of giving or promising sexual favours to men in exchange for work being done on their behalf. Mines were urged to provide platforms of education for young women in surrounding mine communities, so as to combat prostitution and the spread of HIV/Aids.
Health professionals also appealed to the mining industry suppliers, to invest in designs that would be user-friendly for women, mainly pregnant women. The safety hazards caused by the uniform, that women wear underground (one piece overalls). Women owned supplier companies urged the DMR to create and keep a database of female-owned technical companies. These companies have a greater understanding of the needs of women in the mining industry.
Culture and Diversity: Ms Cornelia Holtzhausen
This session looked at the progress made, as well as the challenges that still persist. The stride made by Kumba Iron Ore to integrate women into the company structure, was an example for all about cultural challenges that cannot continue to be brushed aside. Other issues tabled were:
- the different cultures that define different women and how these ought to be embraced,
- combating gender stereotypes with regard to certain jobs being appropriated for males; and
- the challenges that women-owned companies continue to face when bidding for work within the industry.
Mining and women’s development: Ms Dolly Mokgatle
Ms Mokgatle’s presentation touched on a number of important issues, such as:
- the development of women in mining,
- women leadership, equal pay for women and men, and
- business ownership.
Broadly, the issues tackled looked at creating a skilled cohort of women as opposed to brandishing quantities that lacked quality. The willingness and qualification of women to assume leadership roles, and the ownership of mine related business by women.
This was a sobering and eye-openning experience as we were taken through and encouraged to reflect on the broader challenges such as:
- gender stereotypes,
- abuse and harassment,
- and other issues
that women continue to face within the mining sector.
In closing the conference, the outgoing Minister of Home Affairs and newly elected Chair of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma emphasised that women aim for the stars, as this is the "Decade of African Women 2010 - 2020".
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