Not only a man’s world: Women’s involvement in artisanal mining in eastern DRC

Artisanal mining is a key source of livelihood in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area mostly known for its chronic instability and violent conflict. Although men make up the majority of the artisanal mining population, mining is also central in the livelihoods of many girls and women. In this paper, we take issue with the fact that the current emphasis on conflict-related sexual violence to women has obscured the role of women in artisanal mining. Furthermore, we criticize the tendency to promote women’s departure from the mining sector, which has been presented as the best strategy to protect them against the threats of sexual violence, exploitation and oppression. We argue that, given the lack of viable alternative livelihoods in eastern DRC, policymakers should invest more time, energy and resources in trying to understand and to strengthen women’s positions in the mining sector itself.

This article has been written by Marie-Rose Bashwira, Jeroen Cuvelier, Dorothea Hilhorst and Gemmavan der Haar in 2014.

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