After Bernard Njoku participated in a series of training sessions that ultimately informed his decision to hire Kudirat Adeleke, a female mining engineer, in September 2021 to oversee and ensure international best practices in his feldspar mining operations, he was pleasantly surprised by her performance.
‘You know before now we used to believe that mining is exclusively reserved for men but you find out that it is not only men’, the Chief Executive Officer of Blessing Chigozie Mining Company in Ekiti State said in an interview with Development Diaries.
‘There are a lot of things women can do. Women can handle equipment and even do most of the things the men can do’.
Njoku’s earlier sentiment towards the role of women in the mining sector mirrors that of the average Nigerian in the sector today.
In its 2019 report, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI) said women only represented 6.8 percent of the workforce in the solid minerals sector for that year.
‘The proportion of male and female employees was 93.2 percent and 6.8 percent respectively, with no females employed in 11 of the 63 companies that responded for 2019. Physically challenged employees accounted for only 0.1 percent’, the report said.
A recent study by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (CentreLSD) also noted that while women are often involved in artisanal and small-scale mining activities in the midstream and upstream levels, they are excluded from the downstream sector of the mining industry.
The CentreLSD research also recorded cases of gender-based violence (GBV) in the extractive sector across six mining communities in Nigeria.
The series of training sessions that changed Njoku’s understanding of women’s role in the mining sector and made him hire Kudirat was conducted by CenterLSD under its Build Women in the Extractive project.
With a grant from Ford Foundation, CentreLSD implemented the project with a goal to eliminate all forms of GBV in the extractive sector in Nigeria, and integrate women into the governance of natural resources, in line with number five of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’, the SDG five reads.
Speaking at a workshop, tagged ‘Ekiti State stakeholders’ Interface on Gender and Natural Resources Management’, in July 2021, the CentreLSD Executive Director, Monday Osasah, said there was a need for more women to be actively involved in all layers of the extractive industry.
Osasah noted that women’s active involvement in the sector would boost the economy and guarantee sustainable development.
The organisation held interactive stakeholder and policy dialogues in Ekiti, Ebonyi and Taraba states to change the perspective of stakeholders in the extractive sector towards women.
‘Formerly we were thinking of going for a male [mining engineer] but after [the series of training sessions] we said no, let us try a female’, Njoku said.
‘After the trainings, one of them had to do with engaging more women in mining, we now felt that there were other areas we [did not] consider as suitable for women to engage in our mining process.
‘But having acquired that knowledge from CentreLSD, we were able to expand our production capacity; we now have to employ more women’.
After participating in CentreLSD’s interactive policy dialogues and training sessions, the Managing Director of Ire Clay, Bridget Modupe Obube, also increased the number of female employees in her organisation from one to 11.
‘Before CentreLSD programme, some women used to come to seek for a job, I will tell them no; in this factory, women cannot work here. It is not a job for women. I want only men here, this factory is dominated by men, women cannot work here’, Obube told Development Diaries.
‘But after the CentreLSD programme, my eyes were opened, I said “wow”! Women can do this work, women can work in this place. We have a good story to tell today’.
She also revealed that she plans to not only employ more women but also empower them to be able to take on more men-inclined duties such as driving a forklift and other heavy machinery.
Traditionally, men are saddled with the task of moving heavy machineries in the sector. However, with the influence of the CentreLSD project, Obube is challenging the gender imbalance and status quo in the extractive sector.
‘We will train them [women], equip them and give them that chance, that opportunity to start using those equipment and I know that they are going to do better’, she added.
‘It is not as if it is made only for men. Women can do it. Train them, give them the push, encourage them and you will see them performing excellently well’.
The impact of the CentreLSD project in respect to changing perspectives and actions towards the role of women in the mining sector is one of NEITI’s objectives.
NEITI reports should inform more civil society actions in the extractive sector as they target to reduce gender imbalance, engender transparency and enthrone equality in the sector.
Increased women participation in the extractive sector in Nigeria will optimise the work ethics and standards in the sector; another reason civil society and other development actors should scale efforts aimed at ensuring that the Nigerian extractive space is compliant with the SDG five.
Photo source: EITI