The development effectiveness and sustainability of extractive industries in Zambia could increase significantly by taking into account how gender bias issues affect the sector and how extractive industries activities can benefit men and women more equally.
The benefits and risks of extractive industries (EI) are often measured broadly at the community level, but fail to distinguish the different impacts on men and women. Evidence suggests that a gender bias exists in the distribution of risks and benefits in extractive industries; benefits accrue to men in the form of employment and compensation while the costs such as family/social disruption and environmental degradation, fall most heavily on women.
Risks for women in the EI’s include;
- Employment: EI can lead to jobs both directly, such as in the oil, gas, and mining operations. In the mines themselves, jobs go primarily to men. Women more often have access to informal and spin-off jobs which are often less secure, more poorly paid and more dangerous.
- Pollutions: EI activities can lead to pollution of land, water, and air. Which can lead to some compensatory measures giving women improved access to clean water, for instance. But in other cases; pollution causes illness, costs women and girls particularly in the time it takes them to collect water, firewood, food, etc. that may be impacted by pollution.
- Resources and Women Participation: EI often leads to significant money being spent at the community level. Women are often left out of the community consultation process and have little say in how the community resources are spent.
- Resources and Violence: Rising access to cash from EI jobs and an influx in male workers often leads to increases in alcoholism, drug abuse and prostitution. These factors often lead to a rise in domestic disputes, violence against women, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs. The in migration of workers often leads to a rise in violence and crime.
- Loss of sacred places (Displacements): As land becomes converted for EI and the related infrastructure and housing; sacred places and places of cultural significance are often lost contributing to strain on culture and traditions.
Including women’s perspectives is good for development and good for the nation. This should include community consultations in consideration of investments and programming for a sustainable development.
- Employment of women brings community gains: There should be an increase in women having access to EI’s employment or be empowered in regarding household finances. Evidence has shown that women are more likely to invest in education, health and nutrition for their families. Where women have decreased access to employment and cash, families suffer.
- Consultation of women in spending leads to more sustainable investment: There is need for increase in women being involved in community consultations to decide priorities for investment of EI resources. This will led to outcomes being more sustainable development impacts.
- Women can make better employees: Increasing job opportunities to women can lead to high productivity and reduce costs. Women are often more reliable and follow rules, obey health and safety regulations and can be more reliable employees. Women make-up half of the productive labour-force, hence discrimination against women in the labour market is an impediment to private sector development and economic growth.
- Gender responsiveness can improve management efficiency: A proactive gender equity approach can free up management time for core business activities rather than responding to investor concerns or conflict resolution within the community.
- Gender equity can reduce community disruption or protest: employing women and incorporating women into consultations can create a more predictable business environment with fewer production disruptions, thus avoiding cost increases and loss of income.
- Women’s economic empowerment can be good for community development: Women have a better track record of starting successful business and repaying micro-credit loans, and show a greater willingness to respect safety and environmental safeguards.