RTD Paracale 2

Advancing Women’s Labour Rights in ASGM and Beyond

A Roundtable Discussion in Paracale, Camarines Norte, and Sagada, Mountain Province


Knowledge Areas:


As part of its work to ensure gender equality among its beneficiaries in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector, the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC), through the planetGOLD Philippines project, , hosted a series of Roundtable Discussions (RTDs) with government officials in Paracale, Camarines Norte and Sagada, Mountain Province held on 20 September 2023, and 22 November 2023, respectively. The RTDs were attended by 16 participants from regional, provincial, and local government units in Paracale and 11 in Sagada.

The RTD’s main objective was to provide an avenue where participants could discuss how they can support women workers and miners in ASGM and the informal economy. The International Labor Organization and the Philippine Commission on Women reported that workers in the informal economy in the Philippines do not work in the sector by choice and only do so for their survival. They are often mired by poverty and job insecurity. This reality hits much harder for women working in the informal economy whose unpaid care work decreases their opportunities to engage in more secure and remunerated work.  

The RTD sought to raise awareness among relevant government offices on the realities and challenges of the informality of women’s work in ASGM. It also provided a safe and open environment where participants were able to discuss programs and initiatives that can help create more sustainable income opportunities and decent livelihoods for women working in the informal economy. The salient points of the discussions will be used as supporting data for AGC’s Gender Study on women’s labor in ASGM.

To set the context, both RTDs commenced with a brief presentation on the realities of women in ASGM and the informal sector. Ms. Meggy Katigbak, the National Gender Specialist of AGC Philippines explained how women’s ability to achieve economic independence through paid labor is hampered by the weight of their unpaid care work. Oxfam reported that women in the Philippines spend about 13 hours a day on unpaid care work, where seven (7) of those hours are spent multitasking. She underscored the significant contributions of women’s unpaid care work and highlighted how its invisibility in government data and policies leads to its undervaluing and lack of support.

Challenges in Sustaining Government Support

Due to the informal nature of their work, women working in ASGM often engage in several forms of work and livelihood opportunities. Apart from their work in the mines, women also seek income opportunities as weavers, laundry person, farmers, small business owners, cooks, and other occupations which can match their skills. A focus group discussion (FGD) conducted by the project team in Sagada and Paracale in 2023 found that women miners are eager to take on any form of livelihood and income-earning activities to support their families. They are also very open to take on any training that may allow them to receive such opportunities.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) provide such training and support services to women and people in need of livelihood opportunities. However, it was found that the training and livelihood programs were not as sustainable as they were expected to be. The discussions during the RTD found that government agencies must work harder to sway the attitude of community members towards government support and to encourage financial literacy through training activities;

Most Filipinos… when it comes from the government… if asked, they will say ‘let's not depend on the government because they won't do anything for us’. It's like whatever help we give, it's not really sustained, the purpose is lost. RTD Participant

Sustainability on both the government and beneficiary side was discussed as one of the main concerns when it comes to ensuring decent livelihood opportunities for women and workers in the informal sector. On the beneficiary’s side, the urgency to meet their family’s basic needs acts as a barrier which makes it difficult for them to think ahead in terms of their finances.

The participants shared that, on the government’s side, local government agencies and units have been working hard to collaborate among each other to ensure that their support and services are more efficient and sustainable.

Collaboration Among Government Agencies and Units

For us, we thought about what we can collectively contribute because… we are now operating in a cooperative manner. Those kits given by DOLE and DSWD, they won't receive them unless we train them in DTI. The same goes for TESDA. So, it's like, what DTI cannot offer, other agencies might be able to offer for a specific group of beneficiaries. I think that approach would be more effective… if all government agencies joined forces, discussed the needs of the people, went to the communities and let the people have ownership and identify it (their needs) themselves RTD Participant

As highlighted by the quote above, one of the RTD participants shared how effective it has been for government agencies to work together to support target beneficiaries through the establishment of a council. The goal of such a council is to provide an avenue for government agencies to pool together available resources to be able to provide a more holistic and comprehensive form of support and services for its beneficiaries. They highlighted the Cacao Industry Council in Camarines Norte where the agencies meet to determine the gaps in existing support and services for their beneficiaries, and how specific agencies have bridged those gaps with their available resources.

In the same manner, the participants in both RTDs agreed that a council for women workers in ASGM and the informal economy could create a more efficient and sustainable support system for women in ASGM. Through this council, relevant agencies and local government units may come together to collaborate on a more comprehensive plan to support the beneficiaries.

Participatory Process

[When they are organized] they have a voice, they can discuss, they can record. So that means that they feel as though they are a part of the discussion on the issue at hand. It especially (brings about) a sense of ownership. So I see that this is what can happen to us. Once there is organization, we can help each other. RTD Participant

Among the most significant discussions during the RTD is the one on organizing. It underscored the need for a more participatory process at the local government level to ensure that the needs of the beneficiaries are articulated, understood, and met by the government.

Ms. Katigbak, emphasized, "The RTD’s conducted by AGC in Sagada and Paracale brought attention to the labor conditions and needs of women in ASGM and the informal economy where they would have otherwise been rendered invisible." She highlighted that the outcome of these assessments includes "the agreement to build a council for women workers in ASGM and the informal economy under the auspices of their local governments." According to Ms. Katigbak, this initiative "will mean a world of difference for women miners who may be able to access more streamlined and efficient services that can alleviate the burden of their unpaid care work and allow them to achieve economic independence."

The RTD brought together government agencies and units to bring to their attention the situation of women workers in the ASGM and the informal sector. It ended with a call for tighter collaboration among relevant government agencies and units to ensure that women’s labor rights are being supported and realized. Moving forward, the government must also work harder to ensure a more participatory process for its people.

Note:  All quotations are anonymous given that the RTD was a closed-door event.

The planetGOLD Philippines Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and executed by the Artisanal Gold Council.

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