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Why write a special issue for International Women’s Day?

PWYP members at the EITI Board Meeting in Jakarta, October 2011

We wanted to do a few things today for IWD – one of which was to explore some of the gender issues central to our field. The extractive industry impacts women in a specific and adverse manner. If all citizens are to truly benefit from natural resource exploitation, this gender dimension has to be addressed. Furthermore, there are still too few women with decision making power when it comes to natural resource governance. A seat at the table is crucial if women’s points of view are to be truly integrated in the responses to the challenges raised by extractive projects.

As well as placing the spotlight on these issues, we wanted to celebrate our members. Celebrate the fact that we do, already, have many fantastic female leaders. We’ve therefore been speaking with some of our women coordinators about why they campaign on this issue, the challenges and opportunities they have faced in their work and why a gender lens is important in this field.  Writing these pieces below was only possible thanks to their time, expertise and comments.

Finally, we wanted to underscore the fact that gender will be an increasingly important work area for Publish What You Pay over the coming years. We’ve teamed up with UN Women to work together on this question in 2013 and beyond.  We’re organising a small, multistakeholder, workshop with them in April which will include a gender analysis of our Chain for Change to assess where the gaps lie. We will design a longer term programme based on this analysis.

The partnership with UN Women came in response to the informal network of PWYP women members, which was set up following PWYP’s ten-year anniversary in September 2012. This was co- led by former PWYP member Leonie Kiangu, who now works for the EITI Secretariat in DRC. Leonie and her colleagues also publish newsletters with articles on the extractives written from the point of view of women activists. These are available (in French) here.

A note from our partners at UN Women...

UN Women ESARO values the partnership with PWYP as an opportunity to raise awareness on the gender dimensions of the extractive industries and together to also work with national governments, private sector and other civil society partners to identify pathways that bring meaningful economic and social benefits to both men and women through this industry.

Meet our coordinators/contributors

Thank you to all these coordinators for their help in this issue. You can find out more about their stories on our world map.

Not all of our women leaders are mentioned here - we'll be bringing you their stories later on throughout the year. 

Maryati Abdullah - PWYP Coordinator, Indonesia

As well as being PWYP Coordinator for Indonesia, Maryati is an MSG representative on the national EITI board. 

Cielo Magno - PWYP Coordinator, Philippines

Cielo Magno is the National Coordinator of Bantay Kita, the PWYP affiliated coalition in the Philippines and a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.  

Faith Nwadishi - PWYP Coordinator, Nigeria

As well as PWYP Coordinator, Faith is Executive Director of the Koyenum Immalah Foundation. She was recently elected to the Nigerian EITI MSG and is strongly involved in the question of extractive industries and gender.

Kady Seguin - PWYP Interim Director, Canada

Kady coordinates policy engagement and research efforts in the field of transparency and good governance in the Canadian extractive sector, as well as capacity building efforts for PWYP partners.

Claire Spoors – PWYP Coordinator, Australia

Claire Spoors leads the campaign for mandatory financial reporting and full implementation of the EITI in Australia. Prior to this, Claire was the Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator at Oxfam Australia

Aminata Barry Toure - President of PWYP Mali

As well as being President of the Mali coalition, Aminata is coordinator for AP/Mali. 

Blog launch!

Today also marks the first day of our new blog – Extracting Equality. This blog will feature pieces dedicated to gender and the extractives. Many articles will come from Voix des Femmes, a DRC newsletter focussing on natural resource governance from the point of view of women. Coming up, we have an article on what life is like for the women living in the mining city of Mukungwe and how Congolese women are becoming increasingly involved in EITI implementation.

The impact of the extractive industry on women

The pressure is on the women - they are the ones who have to take care of their homes and their children, in the hope that their children will live better lives than they have lived.

Faith Nwadishi

The potential negative impacts of extractive projects on communities are clear – pollution, loss of land, social conflict etc...  What is also increasingly apparent is that women are often the first to be affected by these, bearing the brunt of the negative effects of mining.

Our coordinators, who have worked with communities on these issues – and witnessed the fall out first hand – talked us through some of the ways in which these effects manifest themselves.

Aminata spoke of the work her coalition had done on mining and the impact on women. ‘According to studies we have carried out, one of the essential problems is that as workers and outsiders flood in with their money, life becomes expensive in mining cities. Products triple in price and women – whose role it is to purchase all the household goods – struggle to feed their families and purchase basic food products.’

This issue is compounded by the fact that women are the first to lose their livelihood. In Mali and Nigeria for instance, women tend to be farmers. When land is given to an extractive project, women lose the land on which they work. Conversely, as Claire  points out, while women lose their jobs, men are likely to gain jobs from the arrival of a mine and this often leads to or reinforces gendered power imbalances. Although Community Development Agreements often include some type of provision on employment at the local level, Faith explained that – at least in Nigeria – this employment very rarely translated into opportunities for women.

Another task which traditionally goes to women is fetching water for their families. However, when water bodies become polluted – as is often the case near extractive projects – women have to go further to get this water. Faith described women having to ‘wade through spillages, through scrap metals, through crude oil’ in order to get water for their families, all at the detriment to their own health. They are also, as Maryati pointed out, at higher risk of being exposed to dangerous chemicals, such as mercury or surfactant materials.

Cielo explained that the increase of transient works can increase the likelihood that women will be exposed to violence. The influx of disposable cash and increased prostitution also contributes to the spread of STDs including HIV/AIDS.

There has already been a lot of interesting work done on this question. Oxfam Australia conducted a study in 2009 on the gender impacts of mining and on the role of gender impact assessments. The World Bank has a number of resources on the gender dimension to the extractives. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but a good place to start if you are looking to find out more.

We’ll also soon be publishing an article by one of our members in DRC, who visited the mining city of Mukungwe in South Kivu. In the piece, she talks about the different ways women have found to generate income, the structure of the city and generally what life is like for women near these extractive projects.

Although examining the impact of mining on women is not wholly new, there is still a lot of work to be done. As Kady stated, the ‘social and economic implications the extractive industry entails for women need to be better understood, if we are to identify ways in which we can amplify positive opportunities  for women and minimise the negative impacts that we find.’

The extractive sector - a man's world?

You’re sat in a conference room, full of people discussing natural resource governance. You notice that there are maybe a dozen women in the room – in a room of sixty suits. Yet you know that, inevitably, someone is proudly going to announce that they’re so pleased there are so many women here.  Indeed, the field of natural resource governance can be quite a male arena. We spoke to our coordinators about what it’s like to work (and lead) in a male dominated field…

The initial response was a qualification - while the extractive industry sector is certainly quite male dominated, the CSO sector is not always. On the contrary, the scales sometimes tip the other way – with more women than men present. Despite this, when it comes to leadership positions and boards – such as the Africa Steering Committee or EITI board, women are still the minority.

When our coordinators were confronted with an all-male (or close to all-male) arena, that only gave them the resolve to ‘make sure my voice and opinion was heard’ (Kady).  Although there can be a tendency to underestimate young women, Claire pointed out that can be used to your own advantage – as people are caught off-guard.

Sometimes, a male arena means you have to be twice as good to succeed.  ‘It’s about setting goals for yourself and wherever seeing men excel ensure that you excel too’ Faith said.

However, she continued that it isn’t always worth getting bogged down by the details of gender – sometimes you just have to get on with it and ‘do what you have to do’, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

Cielo stated that, for her part, ‘I know that I can earn the respect of my colleagues if I am dedicated, decisive, and intelligent.  These characteristics help break stereotypes about women and helps engender respect for women.'

Aminata told us of the difficulties she has sometimes faced as leader. In particular, male members of the coalition have sometimes struggled to accept having a woman in charge and a woman taking the decisions. Aminata found that – through constant communication, listening and patience – she has nevertheless managed to have her actions and leadership accepted. One of the most effective solutions, she said, was providing results – and lots of them. It is harder to argue against someone who has proven committed and excellent at their work. Despite the positive outcome, it is frustrating that things seem to take twice as long – and require twice as much effort and diplomacy – because she is a woman.

Aminata’s story reflects a lot of the elements which were raised in our conversation about leadership skills where – along with communication and facilitation – listening skills were placed as the most important asset a leader could have. Maryati explained you needed sensitivity as a leader, to be able to interact well with people. Several of our coordinators raised the tension between the need to be assertive and confident in your views, with the need for humility – to admit when you have made mistakes and be prepared to accept the opinion of others.

As Faith eloquently put it, ‘It takes humility to learn. It takes humility to lead’. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t also be strong and assertive – the trick, they say, is balance.

Leading – ‘as a woman in a man’s world’ is certainly no mean feat. But when things get challenging there is no shortage of inspiration from which to draw strength. Claire mentioned that she has had ‘some great mentors from whom I have drawn a lot of inspiration and this has helped guide me as I lead a campaign.’

As Kady pointed out ‘Within PWYP we have so many different examples of strong and courageous women to look up to - this is also a strong source of empowerment for a lot of women in the coalition.’

A space at the table

It is crucial for more women to have decision making powers, for only then will policy solutions truly reflect the interests and needs of both genders.  As Claire said, ‘if you don’t include the group who represent 50% of the population, things get left out.'

Studies have shown that the inclusion of women in peace making deals strongly contribute to a more effective – and lasting – peace. Could something similar be said for when an extractive company and a community sit down to negotiate? If women are excluded from these dealings, they cannot voice their needs or problems. Furthermore, the habit of excluding women (which also happens when companies dole out compensation payments) strengthens inequality.

This disparity does not only exist at the EITI or CSO level, but – and to a more extreme degree – for the industry too. Half of the twelve mining companies in the FTSE 100 have no women on their boards. In other words – as British Minister of Equality Jo Swinson pointed out – three quarters of the FTSE companies who have no women on their boards are mining companies.

There is clearly a long way to go, if extractive industry governance is to stop being a man’s game.

Currently, only 20% of civil society representatives on the EITI board are women. The upcoming board elections next May provide the perfect opportunity to rectify this.