The recent discovery of non-renewable natural resources such as oil, natural gas and minerals in Kenya could bring prosperity to the nation. It could also fuel lots of problems such as corruption, unethical corporate behaviour, violation of human rights and environmental degradation. Communities in Kenya have deeply entrenched patriarchal cultures which for the most part dictate male and female relationships to each other, to the community and to natural resources such as land, mining and Oil. Women experience the consequences of mining projects in different, and often more distinct ways than men, for instance, they bear the brunt of mining projects yet fail to equitably enjoy the potential benefits.
The grievances voiced by women from the affected communities and women mine workers reveal that mining can, and often does, impact on women and those things of concern to them. For example, the failure to consult with women when negotiating a community’s free, prior and informed consent to develop a mining project, access to land, compensation may go against traditional decision-making structures. The payment of compensation and royalties to men “on behalf of” families and communities denies women access to and control over the financial benefits of mining. This encourages women’s economic dependence on men.
Civil society has an indispensable role in preventing violation of rights especially for women in the interest of local communities, ecosystems, biodiversity etc. Case studies conducted by Sauti Ya Wanawake reveal that In Taita Taveta Women face a number of challenges that limit their engagement in mining which include lack of machines for excavation, transport to and from the mines and the market, lack of adequate food for the women miners and their families; lack of market in some cases middlemen take advantage of their illiteracy on market forces thus buy the minerals at lower prices. There is need for value addition for the minerals through cutting and polishing as this will enable them procure more money from their proceedings. In Kilifi County, harmful chemicals such as mercury, which is used to purify the minerals, in many occasions poses health implications to the women. In addition, Waterlex Report of 2014 reveals how women are denied access to clean water caused by activities that damage the environment. Also, sanitization of fresh water wells and springs impacts negatively on the women’s access to clean and fresh water.
In order to deal with these challenges Civil society Organizations need to intensify awareness and public education – focusing on women involvement in land management, administration and governance by use of simplified education materials in local radio stations and forums.
Enhance communities’ capacity to monitor Natural resources deals from the preliminary stages. Popularize principles of Free, Prior and Informed consent; Support community-miners to develop checklist of engagement with potential investors that clearly and holistically spell out the roles and responsibilities of the investors to the community.
There is a need to identify, outline and implement affirmative actions to ensure community interests do not swallow women interests. Mostly where communities are aggrieved, women interest are disregarded. It is also important to mobilize communities to demand respect, recognition and protection of their land and resource rights. Identify key players especially women through community mapping to enhance capacity of the engagement