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Five ways we are commiting to the Women’s Rights and Mining (WRM)-OECD Gender Statement

Five ways we are commiting to the Women’s Rights and Mining (WRM)-OECD Gender Statement

March 5, 2020, by Olivia Lyster


Levin Sources is delighted to announce that we have recently become a signatory to the Women’s Rights and Mining (WRM)-OECD Gender Statement. What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day? The statement, comprising 13 commitments for promoting gender equality in mineral supply chains, addresses the important issues of women’s rights and participation in a historically male-dominated sector.

As a female-founded company with a team of gender-aware and committed women and men, Levin Sources recognises the important role that women have to play in achieving our vision for positive change in the mining and minerals sector. However, we also recognise the specific obstacles faced by women in the sector, as well as the existence of gender norms and power dynamics that can lead to their marginalisation and exclusion (commitment no.1). This exclusion applies across the board, from artisanal mine sites, where women make up an estimated 30% of workers globally yet tend to hold only the lowest paid jobs, to the leadership of the world’s top 100 large-scale mining companies, amongst whom there are as many CEOs called Andrew as there are women.

Against this backdrop, Levin Sources is committed to promoting and supporting women, both within our organisation and through our work with the range of actors that make up a mineral supply chain. This blog outlines some of the main issues Levin Sources encounters when addressing gender equality in the mining and minerals sector, and how we approach these issues, in alignment with the WRM Gender Statement.

It’s not just about women. Levin Sources recognises that the word ‘gender’ is not synonymous with ‘women’, nor is equality ‘a women’s problem’. The importance of engaging all genders – including men and non-binary people – in gender initiatives cannot be overstated. Many of the gendered norms faced by women in the mining and minerals sector – from the mine site to the boardroom – are imposed upon them by others. Only by engaging men in conversation about gender and power will the situation for women and other marginalised groups begin to change.

Women are not a homogenous group (commitment no.2). Many other factors – such as socio-economic background, education, political influence, ethnic identification, geography, physical ability and more – intersect to make the experience of each woman in the mining and minerals sector unique. In acknowledgement of this, Levin Sources recognises that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to identifying and tackling obstacles facing women and other marginalised groups. Our methodologies are tailored to the task at hand, be it supply chain due diligence for a large downstream company or site-level research at an artisanal mining site in sub-Saharan Africa. This allows us to identify the many unique ways in which women in the sector might experience marginalisation or exclusion, and address them accordingly.

Policy interventions can be harmful if gender dynamics are not taken into account (commitment no.3). Current development-oriented policy trends such as ‘formalisation’, a historically popular approach in the minerals sector for dealing with the informal nature of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), can be counter-effective if gender and power dynamics are not considered from the beginning. Formalisation has, in fact, often proved to increase the exclusion of women as mine sites move further into the formal economy. For instance, the mechanisation of artisanal mining – intended to improve production efficiency and safety – can cause masculinisation of the workforce, replacing marginal roles such as crushing and washing that are traditionally held by women.

A ‘gender lens’ should be applied to all projects as a matter of course (commitment no.5). Acknowledging that power dynamics in the mining and minerals sector often run along gender lines, Levin Sources incorporates methods and designs that ensure that the opinions of all types of sector stakeholders are heard, including women and other marginalised groups whose voices are easily lost in the collection of data and in consultations. This enables us to make nuanced policy recommendations that speak to the experiences and needs of a broad range of sector stakeholders, helping to protect vulnerable groups and human rights.

The private sector has an important role to play. Levin Sources recognises the potential of mineral sector businesses to promote gender equality (commitment no.9). Through our audits and due diligence work, we help businesses put structures in place that enable respect for women’s rights. These include establishing adequate grievance mechanisms, and incorporating sexual harassment risks in company, supply chain and country risk assessments. We also recognise the importance of promoting women-led businesses, particularly in economies where women struggle to access the necessary training and finance to engage in successful business management. Our work currently includes supporting governments to design gender-responsive interventions to promote women’s businesses in the jewellery sector across the African continent.

A commitment to gender equality and women’s rights runs through the heart of our mission, and we are delighted to be joining our fellow signatories of the Gender Statement to wish you a happy IWD. Why not join us? For more information, or if you’d like to sign, contact WRM or get in touch at hello@levinsources.com.

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