“Pallaqueras”, women miners that dedicate themselves to the search of tiny traces of gold waste in hillsides, were severely affected by the health and economic crisis in 2020, in a clear example of how the covid-19 pandemic accentuated the gender inequality gaps in a predominantly male sector with precarious employment.
In response to this emergency, in July 2020 Solidaridad and Red Social launched a crowdfunding campaign to aid women miners through their food security crisis and the need for orientation in the middle of COVID-19.
The first stage of the campaign provided emergency humanitarian assistance to pallaqueras belonging to twelve associations in Arequipa (7), Ayacucho (3), and Puno (2) for the purchase of basic necessities. This was achieved thanks to donations from citizens and organizations worldwide, which amounted to USD 22,140 (S / 77,500 in local currency).
The second stage of the campaign, which started in October, provided pallaqueras with training on COVID-19 to promote a self-care culture in their mining communities. In addition to this, women associations strengthened their capacities in leadership, organization, and negotiation.
Nine workshops were held (3 in Ayacucho, 7 in Arequipa) for a total of 253 women. A total of 558 pallaqueras received personal protection equipment (PPE), infrared thermometers, gallons of alcohol gel, and informational posters.
The pallaqueras who participated, also provided information on their activities and the risks to which they could be exposed. With this information, a COVID-19 prevention protocol was adapted to their specific needs.
Gender inequalities accentuated by the health crises
Pallaqueras are the main caregivers of those infected by COVID-19 while leading home education for their children not to miss the school year. In addition to the increased housework load, Pallaqueras were not included in the reactivation plans within the mining sector, which is why some mining organizations prohibited or imposed restriction measures on them when they tried to restart their activities. This disrupted their monetary income, making them and their children more vulnerable.
In order to face the current economic recession and the irruption of a second wave of infections, it is necessary to promote ASM initiatives that integrate a gender perspective that consider how family, work, and community gender gaps negatively affect women. Likewise, it is essential to design projects that strengthen women organization’s associative and negotiation capacities, to reinforce and back up registration efforts so that pallaqueras can enter the formal market and improve their quality of life.