Rose with group members

Women reap gold benefits after training and working in marketing cooperatives

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Artisanal and small-scale miners have operated in informal settings in Kenya for many years. This, however exposed them to various challenges, among them exploitation from unscrupulous businessmen and brokers who stole their hard-earned gold.

Women narrate harrowing moments it has been especially difficult working as individuals in sundry mining sites and being exposed to harmful impacts of mercury, since the majority were closely involved in gold processing.

“One of the challenges we faced as women working alone is that, untruthful ore merchants intentionally sold us fake ore for processing. This discouraged many of us from the gold processing business. In addition to this, we did not have the expertise in running and managing the business,” begins Josephine Liabule, Chairperson, Bushiangala Women Gold Miners Society Limited.

Elwunza women group
Elwunza women group

Luckily, the women’s turnaround in this mining business came after the planetGOLD Kenya project together with the State Department for Cooperative embarked on an awareness campaign and trained women on the benefits of formalizing project sites as they professionalize and formalize mining activities. After training, the project helped women form marketing cooperatives.

Josephine explains, “After going through a series of capacity building by planetGOLD Kenya on the importance of forming cooperatives, we came together and got support to register a women’s cooperative. I now see a bright future for every woman who has joined the cooperative, because through them we will access loans to finance our gold processing and development.”

Among the cooperatives formed include Lower Mego Women Miners Society Limited, Blue Ray Miners Cooperative Society Limited, Manya Women Gold Miners and Marketing Cooperative Society Limited, Radienya Women Miners Cooperative Society Limited, Kakamega Women Miners Cooperative Society Limited, Bushiangala Women Gold Miners Society Limited, Elwunza Women Mining Co-operative Society Limited and Viyalo Mining Cooperative Society Limited.

Currently, planetGOLD Kenya Project has supported Artisanal and Small-scale gold Miners in Kakamega (Rosterman and Ikolomani), Migori, (Osiri, Matanda, and Kehancha) Narok (Lolgorian), and Vihiga (Chavakali and Hamisi) register an additional 16 cooperatives, making them 23, it will be working with. Out of the 23 cooperatives the project supported, five were women led and three women only cooperatives. 

The training helped women to understand that mining also has health consequences that needed to be handled carefully. “We would like to stop using mercury since is it toxic, and adopt mercury free technologies,” warns Shebby Kendih, Chairperson, Elwunza Women Mining Co-operative. Shebby is happy that they can easily access funds and purchase the mercury free technologies through cooperatives that planetGOLD Kenya helped them form. She explains, without such intervention, they would not have succeeded as individuals.

Sheddy Kendih with group members
Shebby Kendih with group members

Reflecting in the past on how women toiled without benefiting from mining, Rose Vigedi, Chairperson, Viyalo Mining Cooperative Society Limited appreciates planetGOLD Kenya for assisting them formalize the artisanal miners.

It has also been an advantage being in these groups for it has made it easy and allowed the project to capacity build them on how to go about getting their permits and licenses, financial literacy, and mercury-free technology while spreading information on the dangers of mercury.

“As a woman with disability, I saw it fit to mobilize other women and youths to come together and form a cooperative so that we can run mining as a business that enables us to feed our families,” explained Rose.

Others like Christine Molenje, Chairperson Kakamega Women Miners Cooperative, sees a bright future in the mining industry after the intervention and empowerment. She says, “We are now optimistic our livelihoods are set to improve in near future since we are contributing shares in the cooperative and also have an aspect of welfare, which helps the women when they are faced with social problems.”

Phyllis Adede, Chairperson, Manya Women Gold Miners and Marketing Cooperative knows and exalts the power of unity and working together as cooperatives, even as she recounts how difficult it was bringing women together from the beginning.

“Women did not know about the benefits of cooperatives, so once planetGOLD Kenya sensitized me, I went and informed members of the site I worked in. I brought them together and explained the importance. Not everyone bought the idea, so I first recruited 20 and now with the registration we are steadily growing,” Phyllis explained.

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