KAMPALA — According to the Appropriation Bill, 2021 that was passed by the 10th parliament, only eight out 18 programmes of the National Development Plan III (NDP III) were assessed for compliance with gender and equity.
This implies that measures which equalize opportunities for men, women, persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups within 10 programmes were not examined. This implies that when the the National Budget (UGX 44.7 trillion) for the FY 2021/2022 was passed on June 10th 2021, more than half of the Programmes were not assessed. Key among the 10 programmes that were not assessed for gender and equity compliance were; regional development, private sector development and mineral development programmes. These three programmes feed into one another.
Mining is one of the fastest growing sub sectors in Uganda. Combined with quarrying, they contribute 2% to the current industrial sector’s contribution-to-GDP of 27.6% according to the NDP III. About 80% of mining is dominated by small-scale miners, using rudimentary methods. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is a significant source of livelihood for thousands of women, youth and children in Uganda. Like in many other developing countries, these women do not enjoy the same opportunities of access to, control over, and benefits from artisanal mining in their communities.
Under the aforementioned programmes, efforts to develop the country’s mineral potential both in quantity and value, may not yield the expected inclusive results unless the glaring gender and equity issues are critically examined and consequently addressed.
Over the NDP III period, five minerals have been prioritized for development along the value chain. They include; iron ore, gold, copper, phosphates, and development minerals (marble and limestone). While Karamoja has all the prioritized minerals, it scores the least in all human development indices and deserves special attention.
According to the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE’s) scoping study on extractives, many of the men and women formerly involved in artisanal mining have now been rendered jobless as the current regulatory and policy framework considers artisanal small-scale mining illegal. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development notes that the absence of evidence-based strategies for sustainable ASM exacerbates the situation in Karamoja. In addition, indigenous people who are majorly women, youth and children involved in artisanal mining countrywide are being edged out by the commercial companies without providing alternatives or compensation for land taken, thus aggravating their vulnerabilities.
Karamoja has potential to transform from an agrarian, nomadic, poor society to an enterprising prosperous society. As an area that has been ravaged by conflict for years while the rest of Uganda progressed, Karamoja could further sink into turmoil due to inequitable mineral trade and practices in the region. With dozens of mining companies scrambling to grab a share of the minerals in the region, in a community where land is largely communally owned, more strife and conflict may arise. The rising rate of land-grabbing is increasing tensions between locals and outsiders, driving more people further into poverty. Many young people in the region remain unemployed, young girls are being forced out of school and into sex-work among other social ills.
According to the 2018 Equal Opportunities Commission report titled, “Emerging issues in equal opportunities in the mining activities”, an agreement was signed in Moroto district that allocates government 80% of the revenue collected from mining, 10% to the district, 7% to the sub county and 3% to the communities where the mining activities are taking place. However, the communities claim they never received the 3% allocated to them in form of royalties. Since government is responsible for central valuation of minerals, revenue collections and appropriations, more robust mechanisms for retrieval of these royalties and on ward transfer to the communities needs to be explored.
The same report cites several other gender compliance issues that include, lack of access to social services, gender-based violence, high risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections and prostitution, exploitation of workers, use of child labour that has resulted into high school dropout rates. Most mining communities live under deplorable conditions; they lack schools, water, sanitation facilities like latrines and accessible health services. This has led to women and children dying due to poor maternal and neonatal health care. More so, the mines lack sanitary facilities as well as shelters for children.
The miners experience inhumane working conditions; lack protective gear such as gloves, gum boots, masks and are therefore exposed to accidents and injuries, chest and back pain from rock crushing, but also spend long hours underground without proper ventilation. Absurdly, some of the children who work with their mothers have not been spared from hearing impairment because of the stone quarrying noise.
In regard to artisanal and small-scale mining, emphasis should be placed on inclusion, formalization and regulation in order to increase investment in the sector, increase adoption of appropriate technologies, increase revenue generation, as well as improve the welfare of artisanal and small-scale miners who are largely women and youth. The regulation together with inspection is to minimize the negative social and environmental impacts. The review and enactment of existent laws and regulations should be expedited to combat illegal exploitation. Government should also ensure gender is mainstreamed throughout the mining ecosystem in order to curb exploitation and eliminate child labour. It is strongly recommended that all programmes are assessed for gender and equity compliance as the first step to ensuring that the inequalities between men and women are addressed.
Hope Rebecca Twine is the Programme Manager- Gender and Economic Justice (GEJ) Programme at the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).