Versi Bahasa

Down to Earth No. 63 November 2004

Women and Mining Conference demands justice for women

Mining has a disproportionate and destructive impact on women, including indigenous women and women miners, bringing serious social and environmental problems, creating poverty and continuing to show disrespect for indigenous cultures, customary laws and rights. This was the conclusion of the third conference of the International Women and Mining Network, held in Visakhapatnam, India, in October 2004.

The conference issued a comprehensive set of six resolutions, asserting rights and demanding action by governments, companies and financial institutions. The resolutions covered:

The resolution on indigenous peoples and women recognises and respects indigenous peoples' call for a moratorium or ban on new mining projects and the expansion of existing projects that may affect indigenous peoples until all human rights are secure and respect for these rights is assured. It calls for the recognition of indigenous peoples' collective rights to self-determination, and their rights over their lands and natural resources and asserts that there should be no forcible removal from their lands. The rights of indigenous peoples, including indigenous women, to free prior and informed consent must be upheld and respected and not manipulated. Specifically on women, the resolution calls for households headed by women to be recognised and treated in the same way as households headed by men, in decision-making and compensation. It calls for companies to recognise that HIV/AIDS is not an indigenous disease and that they must provide prevention and awareness programmes for employees as well as indigenous women and their communities.

The resolution on local communities and women calls for government and mining companies to respect communities' demands for a moratorium on new mines and expansion of existing mines. It also demands recognition that 'local communities' means not just those living in the mining concession or leasehold area, but all people affected by mining operations, including those living downstream and outside the mine site boundaries.

Governments and the mining industry must ensure that all projects are gender sensitive and ensure that there is active participation of local women affected by a mining project in decision-making. They must obtain the consent of female landowners and local community women to any exploration and mining activity, and must take direction from local women about the appropriate ways for ensuring that their views are heard and their rights are not violated during mining activities.

The resolution on women mineworkers states that the formal large-scale mining sector has low participation of women workers due to family-unfriendly working hours and locations, discriminatory attitudes, unequal work and pay conditions. However, the informal sector has a high proportion of women workers who depend on this sector for their livelihoods. The resolution calls for protective labour laws and proper occupational health and safety laws, full participation in committees to investigate and monitor safe working conditions and maximum employment opportunities, not just in jobs traditionally allocated to women.

The resolution on mining, health and the environment demands a precautionary principle for all mining operations, given the disproportionate environmental and health impacts on women. This includes banning destructive practices such as riverine tailings disposal, submarine tailings disposal and the mining of sulphide bodies leading to acid mine drainage.

The resolution on conflict, human rights and women observes that mining policies, regulations and laws have no gender perspective and are insensitive to the rights of women. It includes the demand that mining companies refrain from operating in areas where they require the use of military forces, private armies, paramilitary, police or excessive security to maintain their operation because such situations results in human rights abuses, especially for women and children.

(Source: Resolutions of III International Women and Mining Conference. For the conference declaration, statement and papers see

Indigenous women - tools for international advocacy

The UK-based NGO, Forest Peoples Programme, has published a guide for indigenous women seeking to make use of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to protest against violations of their rights. CEDAW is one of the six core international human rights instruments and the only one focused exclusively on eliminating discrimination against women. It places binding obligations on the states that have ratified it (this includes Indonesia). A Committee was created to oversee its implementation and to monitor state compliance with CEDAW. A complaints procedure has recently been established which allows indigenous women, in certain countries, to submit complaints about violations of their rights.

The FPP Guide provides an overview of CEDAW and the Committee and gives guidance on how to use the procedures offered. It aims to provide indigenous women with a better understanding of the Convention and to support their use of these international procedures to gain redress. It also aims to spur states throughout the world to reform their domestic laws and judicial procedures so that they provide effective and meaningful protection for the rights of indigenous women.

A Guide to Indigenous Women's Rights under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Ellen-Rose Kambel, FPP 2004. 73 pages, GBP 5.00. Contact FPP, 1c Fosseway Business Centre, Stratford Road, Moreton in Marsh, GL56 9NQ, UK,;

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