Sister act: FQM fights for women’s rights with livelihoods programmes

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Women in Kalumbila District are being empowered through local business development training under a new community partnership with First Quantum Minerals

The mining firm is digging deep in its quest to strengthen the foundation of economic development in local communities by fighting for women’s rights.

The move is aimed at promoting gender equality while improving women’s participation in empowerment programmes, their financial know-how and income generating activities.

“We realised that, because we are in touch with our communities where we work with young people and women, that there are discrepancies in terms of ownership as well as employment opportunities between men and women,” said FQM’s Trident Foundation women and youth empowerment programmes supervisor Caroline Maambo.

“Women sometimes do not really have the same levels of opportunities and education and that makes them disadvantaged. But at the Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila, through the Trident Foundation, we are trying very hard to make sure that we narrow this disparity so that we achieve gender equality. This said, I must be frank, there is no way that women will ever be truly empowered without the support of the family unit, traditional leadership, private sector, governments and everyone on the face of the earth. FQM or the mining sector stands no chance at overcoming gender disparity alone.”

Ms Maambo said that the foundation was also working with the local leadership in communities to help women and girls take a stance by valuing education and also participating in programmes aimed at improving their livelihoods.

“Among some of the livelihoods programmes we have been running, is the introduction of savings groups in the communities, where the women are taught how to budget, save their money, grow it and be able to invest it in their businesses,” she explained.

Trident Foundation formed nine savings groups among local women in the Musele Chiefdom in 2017. Total savings as at the end of November last year was K275, 576 and the total value of loans distributed was K254, 957. These village banks form the foundation of economic development in the local community.

The village banking model of micro-finance is a self-help revolution that challenges traditional attitudes about gender roles and encourages members of the same neighbourhood to save money and lend each other cash for start-up capital or expanding existing enterprises. This helps to instil an attitude of financial management at individual, family and community levels.

“We have also introduced conservation farming with our women where we want to make sure that they also participate equally with men and youths. We also encourage women to go into vegetable growing and we link them to markets so that when they grow their produce, they are then able to have increased income levels in their homes,” Ms Maambo added.

In January 2012, FQM, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, launched Kwambula, a three-year apprenticeship programme designed to help high school graduates move into trades such as power electrical, welding, metal fabrication and mechanical skills.

“We also realised that women must participate in local business development, so that in the area, we can improve skills. And when we have improved skills in women, it means that we have balanced development, and this will help the women become more independent and also contribute to the workforce around their communities and district,” said Ms Maambo.

Despite mining being one of the country’s most important industries economically, and the second largest employer after government, the gender parity in the mining sector remains high. For this reason the mining firm has embarked on a vigorous campaign of mainstreaming gender in the mining sector, and, specifically, at its two mining subsidiaries, Kalumbila Mine in Solwezi and Sentinel Mine at Kalumbila.

The idea was to prepare women to take up jobs or create self-employment opportunities in cross-cutting industries and mining.

 

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