UN calls for equal opportunities for women in the extractives sector in Mozambique

Jun 6, 2016

@ UN Women/Lyndal Lawson

The United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Mozambique, Ms. Marcia de Castro, has called for measures that promote gender equality in the extractive industry, in order to reverse the current scenario in which men have more opportunities than women.

Ms. de Castro, made the appeal in Maputo early June, at the opening of the first National Seminar and Fair on Gender and Extractives. The event brought together over 120 participants representing government institutions, civil society, development partners, private sector, academics, and others from all of Mozambique provinces as well as representatives of the countries of the region, namely Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, UNDP under its program on ‘Extractive Industries for Sustainable Human Development’, UN Women; and the Mining and Gas Technical Assistance project (MAGTAP) for sharing of experiences and good practices in Mozambique.

“I have just learnt that the Government of Mozambique is planning to provide training for over 4500 young Mozambicans to take up jobs in the mining industry. Please ensure to incorporate in this program a gender perspective to give more opportunities to women;” Ms. de Castro said.

Ms. De Castro reminded the audience that Mozambique is rich with natural and mineral resources as the country has large amounts of natural gas; has among the world’s largest unexploited coal reserves and also boasts heavy-sand deposits, gold, copper, titanium, graphite and a number of semi-precious stones and other minerals in significant quantities. She noted that Mozambique is also rich with human capital. Indeed, Mozambique’ population has increased by 4 million over the past 5 years, from 22 million in 2010 to approximately 26 million in 2015.

She posed: “The question therefore is how to translate this wealth in natural resources and human capital into sustainable development outcomes for the whole population?”

In Mozambique, while the economy has been growing at an average annual rate of 7% over the last decade, the Human Development Index still places Mozambique in the 178th position out of 187 countries. Around 55% of the population lives under 0.6 US dollar a day, with women and children being the most vulnerable. Around 58% of women live below the poverty line in Mozambique (54% for men) and women are generally poorly integrated in the labour market and the formal economy.

The country occupies 146th place among 152 UN Member States in the Gender Inequality Index and challenges to gender equality and the fulfilment of the rights of women and girls persist.

The extractive sector could be a game changer in translating the wealth in natural endowment into sustainable development outcomes. However, the transformation of extractive resources capital into human and social capital, by minimizing social and environmental harm and maximizing respect for human rights is probably the biggest challenge facing Mozambique today.

In the opening remarks, the UN highest representative in the country further observed that evidence suggests a gender bias in the distribution of the risks, costs and benefits within the Extractive Industries sector that, if unaddressed, could further widen the gender gaps in access to resources and resource-related opportunities. Indeed, it appears that men mostly benefit from Extractive Industries, while women bear most of the costs, such as family or social disruption and environmental degradation which leads to the loss of employment and income in agriculture. Furthermore, in some cases it was noted that women face disproportionate risks in their engagements with Extractive Industries operations and the communities that surround them: harassment, gender-based violence, HIV, and extreme levels of violence in resource-based conflicts

Mozambique has made global, regional and national commitments on gender equality through the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (also known as the “Maputo Protocol”) and other SADC-level commitments.  These commitments are viewed specifically in the context of decent work and jobs, equal participation in decision-making, control over resources and incomes as well greater sharing of risks across society of some of the negative externalities from the sector.

The Africa Mining Vision, adopted by African Heads of State and government in 2009, advocates for ‘a sustainable and well-governed mining sector that effectively garners and deploys resource rents and that is safe, healthy, gender and ethnically inclusive, environmentally friendly, socially responsible and appreciated by surrounding communities’, among others. Through the Country Mining Vision guidebook, it provides a step-by-step guide on how to integrate gender issues at each level.

In addition, the extractive industry has the opportunity and potential to positively contribute the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals by reducing gender inequality and empowering women and girls to reach their full human potential.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, Alfredo Nampete, said that the event falls within the framework of the Government's commitment to promote gender equality in the socio-economic development process of the country.

"We are aware that the development of the industry requires us to be swift in the integration of gender equality in this field of activity," he said.

He recalled that the adoption of the Mineral Resources Policy in 2013 had as its main objective the promotion of gender equity, through encouraging access and participation of women in the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, creating conditions for them to access to employment and other opportunities economic generated as a result of the development of this sector.

The seminar builds on a Regional Sharefair on Gender and the Extractive Industries that was held in Nairobi in October 2015, organized by UN Women’s Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa. This Sharefair also builds on the collective work of the UN system in general on extractives and broader engagement with the sector at the international level in the context of inclusive growth and development as well as sustainability.

The event takes place at an opportune time when the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy adopted its policy and strategy on mineral resources and it is in the process of harmonizing a gender strategy for the sector. This will create an opportunity to collect the perspectives of the various partners and to consider the positive and negative impacts of interventions in this sector for the communities and the country in general. In addition, knowing that the Extractive Industry is not an isolated sector, other government sectors are also involved in similar reflections about data on environmental, social, and health impacts of mining that have to be taken into account in the governance of mineral resources.

The Extractive Industries sector also provides an excellent opportunity for dialogue not only on women’s empowerment and gender responsive strategies and frameworks, but also to champion the development of a policy guide in the formulation of Extractive Industries frameworks and legislation that ensure women are placed at the heart of Africa’s economic development.