Without Jobs, Hwange Women Scrounge For Coal Pebbles
Scrounging for coal pebbles is the only way Hwange women can earn a living. Image by The Citizen Bulletin
In Hwange, unemployment is growing and women are at the receiving end.
HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Fesani Shoko and her sister Phindani brave the scorching sun in Hwange as they move along the Hwange-Victoria falls road picking coal pebbles dropped by trucks.
In their tattered clothes and saris over their heads to protect themselves from the heat, their target is to fill a 50kg sack.
“We sell each 50kg of coal at USD$3-4 depending on the type. But business is not always rosy as we are picking leftovers and sometimes not quality coal,” Fesani says.
Without any local jobs, this is the only way they can earn a living.
But it's never easy as they face constant arrest from Hwange Colliery Company security officials who confiscate their pickings.
“This is because whenever coal products are stolen at the coal plant, they take us as prime suspects since when we do the picking and selling of coal, no paperwork is involved, we are just scrounging for the coal for a living,” Phindani says.
In Hwange, women feel they are not benefiting from coal mining.
“We know we have natural coal fields but what pains us the most is that we are the ones who suffer the most when it comes to coal extraction.”
Phindani, a woman in the coal scrounging business
“If we look at the social amenities established by these companies, we benefit to a lesser extent. An ordinary woman who is in this scrounging of coal business cannot even afford to get treatment at the Hwange Colliery Company.”
Women make up to 10% of Zimbabwe’s 535,000 artisanal and small-scale miners, according to a report from the Pact Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based development nonprofit.
And the obstacles they face in the industry are considerable.
Hwange based policy analyst Rumbidzai Abigail Siziba says there is a need for legislation to ensure women benefit from the coal extractives sector.
“As women we are concerned about the delays in the finalizing of the Mines and Mineral bill, the enactment of the Act bill will ensure that mining activities will benefit women who also want to venture into small artisanal mining in Hwange,” Siziba says.
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“The central government should also work with the Zimbabwe gender commission in order to monitor the violation of socio economic rights affecting women in mining communities.”
Greater Whange Residents Trust coordinator Fidelis Chima says women in the coal mining town are exposed to diseases due to pollution from mining operations.
“There is a community in Hwange called Madumabisa, some people, including women, from that area suffer acute flu throughout the year due to air pollution and dust caused by mining entities operating within the community.”
Fidelis Chima, Greater Whange Residents Trust coordinator
*Edited by Lizwe Sebatha | Fact Checked & Proofread by Melody Mpande | Reviewed & Commissioned by Divine Dube.
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Social and Economic justice, Public health, Hwange district
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