A common trait of these women is their low public visibility and the little recognition they receive from mining organizations and the mining community itself for their economic and social contribution. Another element to be considered is the precarious conditions in which women carry out their work, particularly in small-scale artisanal mining and in individual mining work. Additionally, mining women continue to be discriminated against and are also a victim of various forms of violence.
In this context, this executive summary presents proposals for the development of public policies that improve living and working conditions for mining women in Bolivia. The proposals are based on a series of participatory workshops carried out with 120 women that represent various cooperatives and independent mining segments organized within the National Women and Mining Network of Bolivia (RNMM).
MAIN CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN MINING
AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION
Official records are lacking on the number of women working in the mining sector, their location, conditions and characteristics of their work, demographic data, specific information on health, education and access to basic services, economic information, data on intrafamiliar violence and others.
Mining women have no or insufficient information on their rights and obligations, neither regarding the mining field and labor aspects, nor on women's rights.
GRANTING OF WORK AREAS
The system for granting work areas in Bolivia has undergone a fundamental change since 2014, with the endorsement of the current Mining and Metallurgy Law, Law #535. This law dictates that in order to access a mining area it is required to have an administrative mining contract, and to have this contract, the main requirement to have a work plan.
Female members in mining associations can only expand their work areas under the tutelage of their cooperatives, for which there is a clear regulation.
Expansion of working areas benefits mining associations as a whole. However, cooperatives still discriminate against women and restrict their access as members, due to male predominance in mining activities and rooted bias that the presence of women in the mines will deplete them.
The greatest portion of traditional cooperatives producing base metals (tin, zinc, lead, silver and others) are granted working areas by the Estate. The associations then distributes these areas among its members. Each member exploits its area with their own resources, and commits to deliver the mineral produced to the cooperative for joint marketing.
The Mining and Metallurgy Law does not apply in regards to the granting of mining rights in the case of individual mining workers such as “barranquilleras”, “bateadoras”, “carrancheras”, “palliris” or “relaveras”, who are not affiliated to a cooperative. It doesn’t include any specific regulation for this segment.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE GENERATION OF PUBLIC POLICIES FROM MINING WOMEN
Policy #1 - Prepare a census on the situation of mining women at the national level, as a basis to design public policies that favor this sector. The census should consider the following:
- Identification of the municipalities where female work occurs.
- Amount of women in different kinds of mining activities.
- General demographic data (age, marital status, education level, place of birth and others).
- Characterization of the various types of female labor in mining.
- Technical conditions (processes and methods at each stage of mining work).
- Working conditions (workday, work safety, equipment).
- Social conditions (housing, basic services, health, education, social security).
- Economic conditions (inputs, products, marketing, income).
- Household economy (household income, expenses, savings, investment).
- Participation in local development (markets, services, infrastructure).
- Organizational aspects.
- Frequency and type of domestic violence.
- Practices of violence at work and exercise of rights.
- Seasonality of operations, migration.
Policy #2 - Expansion of working areas, on equal terms for men and women
- Include clauses that ensure an equal participation of women and men in the concession of the new areas in administrative mining contracts. These clauses must be required and endorsed by the Mining Administrative Jurisdictional Authority (AJAM), as a requirement to approve contracts.
- Approve a rule allowing AJAM to grant temporary exploitation permits in certain areas for associations with female members by complying with basic requirements such as registration, individual legal identification, basic safety and environmental standards, and others, all subject to inspection. Negotiation and submission of the permit would be done between AJAM (representing the State) and the mining women's organization (representing those interested).
- Distribution of work areas within associations should be done evenly, considering the number of female members
- The Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy, the Geology and Mining Service, and the Mining Corporation of Bolivia must provide technical support for cooperatives to identify promising areas for mining activity, in a coordinated way, and as part of a public policy to formalize the sector.
Policy #3 - Awareness, dissemination and training campaigns
- Conduct awareness, dissemination and training campaigns on mining regulations, labor rights and women's rights, under the management of the Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy.
- Assess training needs of female miners identifying areas, levels and themes, and taking into account female miners’ characterisation.
ABOUT THE QORI SUMA PROJECT
The term “Qori Suma” comes from the combination of two Quechua and Aymara words, meaning "Good Gold." Since 2016, Qori Suma has built dialogue and consultation spaces for the development of public policies that can contribute to social and environmentally responsible practices in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector. The project is implemented by Solidaridad, in partnership with Cumbre del Sajama, and with the financial support of the government of the Netherlands.