Women pay the price for Zambia mining expansion

Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:02pm EDT
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By Magdalena Mis

SHINENGENE, Zambia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The women sat quietly in a village church in northwest Zambia, the sun slanting down on their colorful Sunday outfits as they told how life had changed since their chief sold a tract of land to a foreign firm for a new copper mine, displacing hundreds of families.

"We had a vast land and we could do anything," Seke Mwansakombe, one of the displaced women, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Here we are confined to 40 by 40 meter plots and our movements have been restricted because certain areas are now no-go areas."

Kalumbila Minerals Ltd, a subsidiary of Canada-based First Quantum Minerals Ltd, signed a deal with Senior Chief Musele in 2011 to buy 518 square kms of surface rights for its mining activities, called the Trident Project.

As a result almost 1,000 families, most of them subsistence farmers, were relocated to Shinengene, or Southern Settlement, and to Northern Township, some 18 kms (11 miles) from their original village. Other villages are due for relocation soon.

A report by global charity ActionAid, published this week, said the villagers' displacement had marginalized the women, preventing many of them from growing their own food and limiting their access to natural resources such as forests and rivers.

In Zambia, where women take second place in every aspect of political, social and economic life, they are at a disadvantage when decisions like this are taken, which take no account of their interests, needs and concerns, the report said.

"Even when women attend meetings, they rarely speak and they don't ask questions," Pamela Chisanga, the head of ActionAid Zambia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   Continued...