“Mining is a technical problem”, “Mining is not related to Gender”, “That is not the field of Women” … Are these opinions true? And how should the understanding under the perspective of development look like? “Gender – a hidden factor in the mining sector in Vietnam“, this study can be said to be the first qualitative one aiming to collect information on gender issues in mining operation and proposes support method focusing on gender equity issues and reducing social impact in activities belonging to this field.

The research indicates the opposition between the importance of understanding and considering Gender factor in mining operation due to the great influence of this activity for the community, for women, men, the relationships between them, and the very faint performance in policies, law; in implementing policies and law, in the opinion of the leaders, managers at all levels, professional workers and people, including both men and women.

The impacts of mining on women and men: this research mainly focuses on the negative impacts of activity and divided into many aspects such as livelihood/ economic, society and environment, culture – history. In terms of economic/ livelihood, the research studies deeply on benefit and public service issues. Talking about public services, vulnerable groups such as women and children are always affected first when these services go down and much benefited when the public services are better. Mining units don’t comply with the principles and social responsibility makes public services and infrastructure in the areas downgraded. Some households have rapid economic growth but not sustainable. The compensation make the economy of some households grows fast but the use of it for improper purposes (build big houses, purchase expensive vehicles, gambling, booze, imitation …), inefficient (large business investment as raising pigs, chickens in big amount, but lacking of knowledge about breeding causes cattles and poultries be infected and die-off or lacking of knowledge about the market makes product consumption difficult, suffer losses) could re-poor households. In addition, the families left productive land because of uneasy psychology in business, creating the phenomenon of underemployment, wasting of resources, reduction of family income. When household’s economic falls down, women are strenuous and under pressure above of all. Currently, women are still primarily responsible for meeting the needs and services for families.

On the social side, when the environment is affected, livelihoods are gone, men and young people migrate to urban areas to find jobs, the elderly, children and middle – aged women stay and do all works. The people looking for jobs elsewhere left the whole family for the one who stay. They are mainly the elderly people out of working age, children and middle-aged women. The dependence on mining in general creates the division of labor by gender quite clearly between the men’s and women’s work in the mining operations. The common point in the division of labor by gender is men often undertake works which said to be or with high technical and good health requirements, importance, high income. In contrast, women often do works which said to be or don’t have the requirements of qualified skills or high technic. Accordingly, the income of men is always higher than women. This further strengthens the position of men in the family and society, therefore, the status and contribution of women is more blurred.

In environmental aspect, main kinds of pollutions are dust pollution in the mining process, selection and transportation, smoke pollution during manufacturing process, noise pollution due to blasting, exploded rocks during mining and water pollution. Pollution happens because most of the enterprises of mining, processing and trading of mineral violate environmental protection law in many different ways/levels. In particular, water pollution seriously affects livelihoods (agriculture), daily life and health. Environmental pollution affects men and women in different ways in which women often suffer more difficulties, miserableness in their lives. Because in the current gender role, women still have the main responsibility of taking care of the family. Therefore, they are still responsible for the family resources such as water, fuel and food.

The voice of community, women and men related to mining sector: The voice of local authority is often passive in the decisions of licensing for mining in this area. Government consultation activities are formalistic and often neglect citizens’ opinions. The reports of evaluating impacts on environment, or consulting inhabitants are just formalistic. The local authority finds the situation “more harm than good” from mining activities in this area, but falls into a “dilemma”. Besides negotiating and mobilizing the enterprises to carry out commitments or solve problems arising and affecting the community, the local authority can just reflect outstanding issues to higher levels but doesn’t have full competence to decide.

The decisions about gender sensitive are still faint, not integrated as well as being ignored. The rate of local key officials is currently low, particularly in remote areas. Therefore, even if the key position is a woman, it is hard to ensure the voice of women because the proportion of men’ opinions and women’s is not balanced. This makes conceding the voice of women in the decision of local authority is still weak. Moreover, as analyzing above, the needs and common voice of the community (male – female) are all overlooked, the desire of women in general as well as the impacts of mining activities to women’ lives in particular are not mentioned certainly.

Lack of knowledge of the law makes people and women hard to protect their rights: most of people in general and women in particular don’t know the Mineral Law, The Law on Environmental Protection, the regulations on committing to protect the environment, the regulations on responsibilities of mining units, their rights as well as lack of knowledge related to grievances, proposing aspirations or opinions to protect the rights of individuals, community, or do not have money to hire a lawyer, do not know how to approach a lawyer. Because of failing in complaining to local authority and companies, people choose to do in their ways like spontaneous crowded gathering, blocking company’s car.

Consultation before mining isn’t good, but even the compensation for all damaged aspects caused by mining like farmland, crop losses, cracked houses, people participating in traffic to be in danger were not solved adequately. This shows that the rights of the native people in general and women in particular are not respected.

The opinions and awareness on gender of the people involving to mining sector almost very faint, even that they don’t see any relationship between these two factors, they said that gender is a category of social issues, mining related to technic and nature. Talking about mining, the managers, specialists primarily mention about environmental impacts, if any, in their analysis, they do not realize the importance of having to understand that the role of women and men are different, and so are their demands and the impacts on these two groups. It’s needed to have new appropriate opinions to develop mining industry based on the gender equality basis and the final goal is to develop the community and society in general. Group benefits should be mentioned when licensing.

In the context of changing all aspects of economic, cultural, social life in communities that have minerals for mining, the traditional gender concepts are still maintained in how to behave towards women and men, in the different expectations that make women have more difficulties, endure burdens which are not easy to share. For women in the community affected by mining operations, the changes in livelihoods lead to both negative and positive changes. At a certain point, women must work harder and feel more powerful, participate in community activities, more confident when expressing their ideas. However, the division of labor in income-generating activities has been affected in a systematic way by the expectations and prejudices towards women.

Gender mainstreaming in policy is not apparent. There is a separation between policy for mining sector and gender policy in general. In the policy and law on mining, in the report of evaluating environmental impacts, there’s only a small part speaking of “community”, mainly in terms of ‘public consultation’. However, the level of community participation is also low in the decisions relating to licensed activities, mining and post-mining operations. Not to talk about the splitting of the needs and specific characteristics, the differences of women and men in policy and law involved are totally not mentioned. The absence of the role of civil society organizations including the Women Association, as the representative for benefits of women community in general, in consultations related policies in the mining sector doesn’t help for the improvement of the traditional gender notion. The related legal framework is neutral, ignores the practices that keep women trapped in preconceptions. The failures to implement serious and thorough consultation activities with the community, with representatives of women have made the negative effects of mining operations exist in every community and every family.

Finally, the study provides some recommendations and suggestions for changing partly the emerging problems in the mining operations. To solve a problem, of course there should be more coordination solutions, at different levels, different scales; however, to make gender factor not to be hidden in the mining sector, we can follow some tips below: Focus on the role of civil society organizations, mass organizations. In mining operations, we should take into account the needs, desires and aspirations of men and women toward gender equality. It’s also needed to pay attention to women group in the community for a reason that with the current gender role, together with men, women are primarily responsible for family life, from production to reproduction. We must have serious note from the perspective of gender equality in the implementation and monitoring the implementation of policies related to mining. Agency responsible for state management of minerals needs to listen to and respect the opinions of people, of women. All those involved to execution and supervision Mining Law, the Law on Environmental Protection must understand clearly about substantial Gender Equality and have knowledge of the basic regulations of the Law on Gender Equality.


CGFED’s Tornado Group


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