By Ashleigh Jinjika
Since 2000, Zimbabwe has faced serious challenges and threats to its peace and security as a result of deepening economic and political crisis. In the wake of the Zimbabwe Crisis, the last two decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold (ASGM) mining activities.
This development has also seen the rise of marauding machete wielding gangs (loosely referred to as mashurugwi) who have descended on the mining sector and society at large. Resultantly, the mining sector has become a no-go area for the weaker sex (women) since the masculine (men) now dominate the artisanal and small mining sector in Zimbabwe. Women and girls suffer higher incidences of this violence because of their subordinate status in the society.
In recent months, the gangs have terrorised communities with government seemingly doing nothing besides half-hearted statements that the culprits will be arrested. The lack of government intervention to address this national security issue has fuelled or resulted in Zimbabwe to enter into a new crisis whereby the natural resources which are meant to benefit everyone now benefit one gender. Men due to their masculinity in nature dominate the mining sector at the expense of women.
The mining environment itself is also often dangerous for women, as there are instances of sexual harassment and pressure to engage in sex work. Sexual harassment violates a woman’s integrity and oftentimes leaves victims emotionally scarred all their lives. Additionally, there are often high levels of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in mining communities.
Mining sites also often lack sanitation, health services, and regular access to clean water, if accessible at all, are often far away.
Each day, violence stops a girl or woman from taking a job, compromising their future and the economic and social development of their communities. Therefore, the government has to respond to the violence taking place to ensure the environment will fair for both men and women such that they all benefit from natural resources to eradicate poverty.