Engr Janet Adeyemi is a Geologist and the President/Founder, Women in Mining in Nigeria. In this interview with John Okeke, she spoke on the challenges affecting women’s participation in mining. Excerpt.
Do you think that women are sidelined on the issue of mining?
Women must be encouraged to get involved in mining. What is happening to women in the sector is just like what is happening in every other sector. Mining is seen to be male dominated field, so that even when women are there, they are seen as what are they doing here, this is not where they are supposed to be. They are supposed to be in the kitchen or they are supposed to be in the other room.
But the issue is that women are there just like every other profession; so women are there working as labourers, working as skilled officers, women are working there as career people, women are working there as investors and I sited an example of one or two women who probably own one of the best mines in Nigeria today.
So, what we are saying is that government should encourage, during community engagement that more emphasis should equally be put into the document that are put up to encourage women protection and participation in the sector.
And I went ahead to talk about countries like in Australia when big companies come like that they engage women who are their tailors, that way women are participating, women are sewing their uniform, they engage women who run their restaurant, they provide services in other areas and some of their services are strictly meant for women just to be able to help and build the capacity of women in the sector.
Training, I emphasized on the issue of training that it is very critical, that women should be well trained in the act of contract negotiation so that they are not left behind. You know that our culture and tradition, most times when such discussions are taking place, women are not even there but the decisions that are going to be taken is going to affect their lives.
So, women should be encouraged to be part of the negotiation team and if possible build up their capacity to be able to participate in CDA’s that is the contract agreement, that is when contracts are being drawn in mining.
Why do you think that women should venture into mining and why should they be encouraged?
I don’t think mining is just like other professions and because of the freedom, the fundamental human rights any person should be able to go into whatever they want. So, women should not be excluded. It is just if I asked you too why should men go into mining, why should men go into trading. These days when you go into salons you will find men into hair business, doing pedicure and manicure; why did men go into it? So, it is a question of choice. And that is where the exercise, the exclusive freedom of man comes in.
If a man or a woman believes that he/she wants to do a particular thing, you should allow them do it, that is what we are saying. A woman believes she wants to mine, you should allow her to mine and enjoy her space in mining other than now restrict it and saying no, you cannot come in; that reminds one of the apartheid law that says no you are black you cannot come into the law, everybody should be allowed.
And section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution is very clear, fundamental human rights; every human being must be allowed to exercise their fundamental human rights.
I read Geology and I know that when I was reading Geology it could take me to mine site and it could also take me anywhere and when I decided to add engineering, I knew engineering could take me anywhere and this days we have women who are into engineering, women who are pilots, you have women who are engaged in all sorts of things. So, I don’t think there is anything to it.
What are the challenges women are exposed to in the mining business?
Mining is a very tough business, so the challenges are numerous. You have the challenge of funding because mining is capital intensive, so mining is not for small boys or small girls, it needs a lot of money. It is a major challenge for women, giving where women are from, that they don’t have access to funds. They need funds to be able to do anything.
Women need to build their capacities, purely technical, mining is technical; if you have not gone to school before or you have not learned it, it might be difficult for you to participate in the sector. So, you need to build the capacity.
The trade, it is not like tomato or yams, the dynamics of the trade of mining, understand how royalties and taxes are paid and even what to sell, the value of what you are carrying requires knowledge, so the capacity must be built.
When you are a miner, you don’t mine in the cities, you mine in the mining sites.
What do you think government can do to help?
There are so many policies that you need to bring in to support women in mining and support mining generally. If you look at the issue of community engagement and the right of community people; you will find out that the policies must be clear, the social responsibility clauses must be clear, what you call social corporate responsibilities, the social aspect of it must be well defined such that if you look at the issue of consent, is has been bastardised in time past.