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Women around the world are countering mining’s negative impacts.
Kathryn Martorana was the former extractive industries campaign coordinator at Oxfam America.
As global demand for energy and natural resources continues to grow, oil and mining companies are moving into remote areas of the world. Mining impacts men and women differently because of their roles and relationships in the family and community. Projects can bring benefits to the community in terms of revenues and jobs, but they can also have severe negative impacts on rights of local communities, particularly women, deepening their vulnerability to poverty. Experience and research indicates that social and environmental risks of mining often fall heavily on the women, elderly, and children.
Oxfam America is getting ready to kick off a 10-day Gender Justice and Mining Tour. Starting on November 5, women representatives from Peruvian and Ghanaian civil society groups will speak at university, diaspora, and policy events in Washington, DC, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, with the intention of spreading awareness about the rights of women and the continued roles they play in advocating for fair and accountable practices around oil and mining operations.
Across the globe, women in oil and mining-affected communities are making their voices heard by raising awareness in their communities, disseminating information among women, and generating alliances with local social organizations, communities, and local authorities to counter the negative impacts of mining. In Ghana, Peru, Guatemala, and Cambodia, women advocates are standing up for their rights and holding their governments accountable for fair compensation, equitable access to water, and proper distribution of revenues. In La Oroya, Peru, Rosa Amaro, President of the Movement for the Health of La Oroya, is seeking to hold US-based Doe Run corporation accountable for polluting the Peruvian town with high lead levels, forcing residents to leave their homes, an area now named one of the ten most polluted areas in the world.
Women in rural communities, being responsible for traditional duties such as preparing food, raising children, and tending to a farm, often feel the presence of mining operations most acutely. When human rights and environmental standards are not respected, mining operations can have detrimental impact on the surrounding environment, as seen in La Oroya. Lack of prior consultation with a community, water contamination, and forced relocation can subject women to walking miles to find alternate water sources and arable land to farm, leading to reduced time for other chores, education, and leisure. Traditionally marginalized from decision-making, it is often exceptionally difficult for women to advocate for their rights within their community.
Oxfam America’s Peru office has been supporting women’s organizations such as the Movement for the Health of La Oroya and CooperAccion for over a decade around the environmental clean-up of La Oroya.
It is our hope that the Oxfam America Speakers Tour will foster a deeper understanding of the impact of mining on women and bring larger visibility to their plight.