The women of Zimbaqua mine is the first African mine with an all-woman workforce. It was founded to empower women in a male dominated industry. In this mine, women do all the heavy-lifting.
“We were oppressed, we were told that mining is a job left mostly for men,” says Anatolia Mapfumo, the Mine Manager. “But we have realised that as women we can competently take part in mining.
“When I was employed, I had no experience mining. But when I was appointed manager, I realised I was the one to lead my people. So I had to overcome the differences and difficulties and work in this mining field,” she added.
Despite some of the negative stereotypes that follow them, they’re determined to provide for their families one jewel at a time.
“My work is not difficult. I am executing it well as a woman. Most people feel that our jobs are painful but we are used to it,” says another miner, Esther Chiroma. “We don’t feel any pain or discomfort.”
“My life was difficult. My husband isdisabled, paralysed from the waist down. So I am responsible for everything around the house, I am self-reliant.
“But since I joined Zimbaqua the burden has become lighter. I am now able to provide for my children’s education and other needs and they feel very happy and secure,” Chiroma added.
Patrick Zindoga, Founding partner of Zimbaqua says Zimbaqua has received bad feedback but he still believes in the initiative and creating equal opportunities for women in the community and their families.
“Every single job done in this mine is done by women. They work hard and we believe that working in partnership with them will succeed, this community would be able to develop.
They want to build a community. They want to build their home, they want to look after their families and they’re the only breadwinners in their families.”
About 40% of women in Africa work in small-sector mining. In Zimbabwe up to 15% of women work as small scale miners.
The mine currently employs 25 women who are set to be trained to cut, polish and determine the value of gemstones.