Making sense of women’s economic activity within DRC’s artisnal gold mining sector

Marie-Rose Bashwira

Type: Briefing Paper, DRC

Organisation: International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)

Country: DRC

Date: 28/01/2019

Full summary

Previous research has demonstrated that women in mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are mostly involved in low-paid and labour-intensive tasks. What is less understood is how female and male miners view themselves, as clearly not all women involved in the mining sector are in the same situation. It is within this context that this briefing seeks to make sense of women’s economic activities within the artisanal gold mining sector in Luwhindja and Kamituga.


The research uses mixed methods – combining ethnographic observation, face-to-face interviews, focus group discussions and a quantitative survey of 206 women miners in the Kamituga region. The research highlights in particular:


  • A high rate of dependency is a critical cause of extreme poverty in women miners.
  • The need for both spouses to work is a significant development in gender relations in artisanal mining in the gold sector.
  • Women view their own contribution to the household income as relatively unimportant, compared to men’s.
  • Some policy actors and development agencies assume women should be protected from working in gold mining, but the women interviewed in this study wanted to continue, while combining this with other means to supplement their low incomes.



The briefing presents four recommendations for policy-makers and donors to help boost the position of women in DRC’s mining economy:


  1. All actors in the gold mining industry, including men and administrative agents, civil society organisations and policymakers, should recognise the value, worth and permanent presence of women in the sector. This should improve women’s self-esteem and status in the community.
  2. Policy should be based on identifying the most important socio-economic indicators for women’s protection. Reforms will significantly impact rural mining poverty, generating alternative livelihoods for women by considering specific needs and encouraging women to diversify rather than quit mining.
  3. NGOs and local organisations need to complement economic approaches that address constraints rooted in social/customary gendered norms. In future, local organisations working with women in the sector could consider the need to develop/test new theories of change and planning frameworks.
  4. Policy-makers have more to learn about women’s economic contribution to mining. One way to help would be to improve reporting systems in the sector, such as creating a more gender-oriented database for future research and policies.