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Women still being hassled in male-dominated mining environment

10th May 2013

By: Leandi Kolver

Creamer Media Deputy Editor

  

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Employing women without careful consideration in the traditionally male-dominated mining environment has led to their being exploited and sexually harassed, social responsibility performance monitoring organisation The Bench Marks Foundation chief researcher David van Wyk tells Mining Weekly.

“Even though The Bench Marks Foundation has highlighted the issues surrounding women in the mining industry in various research reports on the social, economic and environmental performances of mines, the first of which was released in 2007, the foundation is still receiving reports of a lack of facilities for women in some mines and we find that women often still find themselves as the objects of sexual harassment,” The Bench Marks Foundation executive director John Capel said in a statement.

Research conducted by the foundation through community monitors who regularly interact with mining communities in and around the Rustenburg area, suggests that women can often not fulfil the demands of the working environment, for whichever reason, and men then offer to take over their work in exchange for sexual favours, says Van Wyk.

He points out that interviews conducted by University of the Witwatersrand radio station Voice of Wits FM last month confirmed the results of the research done by The Bench Marks Foundation.

“Teams also chase bonus targets and men complain that the women on their teams are to be blamed for targets not being met, which again leads to transactions involving sexual favours to compensate for what men regard as the handicap of having a woman on the team,” Van Wyk states.

Meanwhile, while most of the men employed at the mines are migrant workers, the women tend to come from the local community, which makes the situation more complex, as most of these women are married to men who are unemployed.

Should the women then fall pregnant, tension in these homes increase as their husbands often claim that they do not know who the father of their wives’ children is.

“There are many things that need to be considered when a women is employed in a male-dominated environment, to which the Mining Charter does not pay sufficient attention to,” says Van Wyk.

The requirement of the Mining Charter that 12% of the mining workforce be women does not take into consideration that the mining work process had to be carefully studied to determine ways in which women could be deployed that would not lead to their exploitation, he adds.

Van Wyk suggests that women be employed as machine operators or drivers – positions where women would not be in a crowd of men.

However, these women would then require special training to do the work, which is something that would have to be dealt with by the mining company in question.

“Further, mining companies would also have to re-engineer the bonus system, as women who are deployed in secondary roles currently do not have the option of getting access to performance bonuses, which, in turn, also leads to sexual transactions, as women are seeking ways to supplement their basic wage.

“The fact that more sexual transactions take place towards the end of the month as women attempt to get access to some of the money coming through the bonus system has been confirmed by a mine personnel manager,” he says.

The Bench Marks Foundation believes that government should regularly investigate the working conditions for women employed at mines, while mining companies should pay more attention to these employees.

“Mining companies should conduct their own research on the matter and they should be honest about the findings.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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