Elias Simba

Solidaridad East & Central Africa

The Elias Simba gold mine is located in the Geita region in Tanzania, 44 kilometres south-east from Geita town. Its closest settlement is Nyarugusu village. The ore is mined from the underground shafts, reduced in size to powder, concentrated by sluicing and amalgamation, and, in the final step, gets smelted to gold bullion. The mine is located in an area set aside by the government. Its presence has stimulated economic development of the community and created employment for the indigenous population. It also helped to increase the availability of shops and other services.

  • The women at the Elias Simba mine work as ore crushers, transporters and cooks. Solidaridad’s work at Elias Simba involves providing training sessions in, among others, business skills and setting up saving groups. The goal of these training sessions is to increase the women’s capacity to learn and apply new skills. In addition, the men at Elias Simba (e.g. mine managers and workers) also take part in sensitization sessions on gender equality. Through these activities, we support mines in creating an enabling environment for women miners to improve their position in the mines and communities.

  • At the Elias Simba mine, artisanal production and processing methods are being used.

     

  • The sluice box is being used by the miners to separate the gold from gravel. The water washes down the fine gravel while the heavier gold remains at the bottom.

     

  • Winifrida Kanwa is a project manager at Solidaridad in Tanzania.

     

  • Project manager Winifrida Kanwa is a professional engineer specialized in mineral processing engineering. The Solidaridad team supports miners with developing their knowledge and skills in responsible gold mining methods and processes.

  • Women miners of Elias Simba - Mariam Omary, Lukia Ramadhan and Ghati Mwita - in conversation with Solidaridad’s project manager Winifrida Kanwa.

  • A miner at work at Elias Simba

  • Women are often the caretakers of their family. Creating a safe environment for women to work in and supporting them to earn a living for themselves and their family is key.

     

Discrimination of women at multiple levels

Tanzania is the fourth largest producer of gold in Africa. In this country, 25% of the estimated one million artisanal and small-scale (ASM) miners are women. Women working in artisanal and small-scale gold mines (ASGMs) and surrounding communities face discrimination at multiple levels. Evidence indicates that men control and benefit from access to land for mining, income, credit, as well as mining and household commodities. This therefore limits women’s opportunities. Traditional reproductive roles, limited access to health services, and socio-cultural norms in communities further prevent women from acquiring benefits from mining and other economic activities.

Before Solidaridad started with the Golden Line programme in the Elias Simba gold mine, we interviewed a couple of female mine workers: Mariam Omary (L), Lukia Ramadhan (M) and Ghati Mwita (R). At that time, these women collected the waste rock left behind by male miners to be washed for gold. The waste rock contains little gold and therefore the earnings from this job were very low.

Unfair working conditions

Women in mines are frequently paid less than men for the same work whilst facing severe health and safety risks. They undertake particularly arduous and hazardous work, which includes splitting and shifting rocks and using highly toxic mercury to extract gold. Moreover, childcare and household responsibilities limit the time women have for economic activities.

Lukia Ramadhan, 38 years old: “As women we have the lowest position, I think that´s a bad thing. We don't earn enough money. Men have more cash because they have a better position than we have. They don´t allow us to do other work.”

Limited access to healthcare

Beyond their work at the mines, women’s opportunities to engage in economic activity and improve their status are affected by their limited access to healthcare and ability to plan pregnancies. Early and repeated pregnancies due to limited access to knowledge, products and services threaten women’s health and economic productivity. Access to healthcare facilities is low and when it is available, an estimated 60% of facilities have inadequate capacity. Sexual harassment, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), and transactional sex are common.

Mariam Omary, 40 years old: “We came here to look for gold; before we were farming, but because of the weather change the land was too dry to produce enough. It´s really a difficult job, but there's no other work for us to do. It's really tiring work and time consuming. Sometimes we work 4 days and don´t find any gold at all. Then we don't earn money.”

The Golden Line approach

The Elias Simba Gold mine is one of the 15 gold mines in Tanzania that Solidaridad is currently supporting with its Golden Line Programme. Elias Simba is a hard rock and alluvial mine with 100 miners of which 23 female miners. Women work in processing of gold such as crushing and panning of the gold.

Solidaridad supports Elias Simba Gold mine in addressing barriers to women’s economic empowerment within the mine and in the surrounding communities through an innovative approach consisting of three cross-cutting strategies:

  • Supporting women with raising their voice and gaining more agency to claim their rights
  • Positive male involvement
  • Engaging communities to challenge existing gender norms and enhance social accountability

Our comprehensive approach links enhanced gender-responsive lobby and concrete measures for fair gold, with bottom-up empowerment and health interventions. We strive to make mining policies and practices more gender-sensitive, increase women’s agency and create a supportive local environment. Enhanced agency and control over their reproductive rights will contribute to women’s increased control over other resources. Other aspects, such as education and land ownership, are also crucial. Therefore, we will seek to establish connections with relevant actors addressing these barriers and with networks working towards improved gender equality in mining.

Ghati Mwita, 41 years old: “Men have cash, we're very inferior. They have the sacks with enough gold, we get the waste stone. We also want to own shafts and supervise them and have leadership positions. When I could do whatever I wanted I would own a big shop, my own grocery store. Or I would own the mine!”

Outcomes of our programme

One of the desired outcomes of the Golden Line Programme for the next four years are improved labour conditions for women working at the ASGMs. These include improved occupational health and safety, equal pay for equal work, facilities provided for Menstrual Hygiene Management, and zero-tolerance for sexual harassment.

The second outcome should be increased opportunities for women in mining communities to engage in economic activities. Access to health education and products is a prerequisite to good health and is essential for women to engage in economic activities. Women’s increased control over their reproductive lives and improved health for themselves and their families increases their prospects to utilize economic opportunities. We know that greater access to knowledge and services means that women can (often) reduce their number of pregnancies.

Back to the Solidaridad gold programme