Gender – the blind factor in mining in Vietnam

Gender – the blind factor in mining in Vietnam

Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) organised the report sharing workshop on “Gender – the blind factor in field of mining in Vietnam”.

This research must be is the first qualitative research aiming at collecting information related to Gender in mining activities and then to propose suggestions which focus on gender equality and social impacts reducing link to this area.

Time: 8:30 – 12:00 am, Thursday, November 29, 2012
Venue: Press Club, 59 A Ly Thai To, Hanoi.

“This qualitative research aimed at exploring and understanding gender issues in mineral mining sector in Vietnam. The research has pointed out the contrary between the importance of understanding and taking into account gender factors in mineral mining sector and the impacts of these mineral mining activities on community particularly men and women. These two issues were blurred in policies and legal documents in the implementation of legal processes, as well as in the perspectives of leaders, managers, experts, and local people including both men and women.

The research also provides analysis related to four specific aspects and comes up with recommendations to further improve the gender equality in the mineral mining sector in Vietnam.

Impacts of mineral mining on men and women: This research mainly focuses on the negative impacts of mineral mining activities in terms of livelihoods, economy, society, and environment. In terms of the economic or livelihood aspect, this research emphasises much on public benefits and public services. Regarding public services, the most vulnerable groups such as women and children will be affected first when the services go down and they will also be the groups that will benefit most from the improvement of service. When the mineral mining companies don’t comply with the social principles and responsibilities, the quality of public services as well as public utility will gradually go down. In this case, some households will have fast growing but unsustainable livelihoods. The compensation they received from mineral mining companies can make these households become rich quickly; however, the improper and ineffective use of the compensation will easily make them come back to the poverty. In addition, some households give up their land because they cannot focus on production activities. This can lead to the waste of human resource and reduction of family income. When each family faces economic crisis, women are always the first affected group. Especially, women are still responsible for meeting the family needs and service requirements.

In term of social aspects, when the environment is affected and there is no mean of livelihood, men and young people will move to urban areas looking for jobs, leaving the elderly, middle-aged women and children at home. Those who stay have to take on the family responsibilities. Regarding to the mineral mining sector, male and female jobs have been distinguished clearly. Commonly, men will undertake high-tech jobs, which require good health and better skills. And of course, the income for these types of job will be higher. In contrast, women usually undertake normal jobs, which require less technical skills. Therefore, it is easy to realize that the income of men is always higher than women. This matter of fact will further reinforce the position of men in the family and society. And consequently, the role and contribution of women will be decreased.

In terms of the environmental aspects, pollution is dust from the exploitation, classification, and transportation processes. This includes smoke during the processing stage, noise during mine explosion, classification, and transportation processes as well as landslide during exploitation process. Pollution can be seen in almost all mineral mining areas because most of mining companies are violating the Law on Environmental protection to varying extents. Particularly, the pollution of water resources causes serious impacts to livelihoods, especially agriculture and daily life of local people. And once again, the gender issues should be raised because women are always responsible for maintaining the family resources such as water, materials, and food.

The voice from community including men and women on the mineral mining sector: The local authorities play a passive role in providing licenses for mineral mining companies in the area. The consultation conducted by local authorities is somehow described as formalism; the stages of consulting community or conducting environmental impact assessment report are often skipped. Local authorities have recognized that mineral mining activities bring “more harm than good” but they are ostensibly trapped in a state of “dilemma”. In addition to directly negotiating and persuading enterprises to perform their commitments and mitigate adverse impacts to community, the local authorities cannot do anything but submit the unsolved problems to higher level. In this case, they explained that they do not have enough authority to solve these problems.

Gender-sensitive decisions have not been integrated and are often ignored: the ratio of women in key staff positions at grass root level is very low, especially in remote areas. For that reason, even when the key positions were taken over by women, it is still difficult to ensure the women’s voice. This is because, the difference in terms of opinion contribution proportion between men and women is so large that it cannot ensure the women’s voice in making decisions at the local level. Furthermore, as mentioned above, when the common voice of community (men and women) is ignored, the aspirations and expectations of women in general and their impacts due to mineral mining activities in particular will not always be mentioned as a matter of course.

It is difficult for women and community to protect their rights due to the lack of legal knowledge. The community in general and women in particular haven’t known about Mineral Law, Law on Environmental protection , regulations on environmental protection  commitments, provisions on the responsibilities of mining companies, and also their own rights. Moreover, they also don’t have enough knowledge on legal proceedings or don’t know how to speak out their opinions to protect their own rights. For that reason, when their opinions are ignored by local authorities, they decide to solve the problem in their own way. For example, one of the solutions of the local people could involve gathering in a small group and stopping the trucks of mineral mining companies.

Community consultation before issuing license to the mineral mining companies hasn’t been ensured. Even during the evaluation process for compensation, how to mitigate the negative impacts of mineral mining on community hasn’t been addressed thoroughly and comprehensively. For that reason, most of local community are dissatisfied with the compensation on cultivation land, damaged crops and secondary crops, cracked houses, dangers for road users, etc. This matter shows that the rights of local people in general and women in particular haven’t been respected.

Gender perspective and awareness on mineral mining sector of relevant stakeholders are blurred. They even indicated that there is no relationship between these two above elements. According to their opinion, gender is a social category while mineral mining is close to technical and natural field. When mentioned about mineral mining, managers and experts mainly refer to the environmental impacts. If they ever mentioned about gender issues in their analysis, they still didn’t recognize the difference between men and women in terms of social roles and needs. And of course, the impacts of mineral mining on men and women will be different. In order to address this issue, it is necessary to apply new approach based on gender equality on mineral mining industry. In the end, the final targets are the sustainable development of community and society in general.

In the context of changing every aspects of life including economy, culture, society due to mineral mining activities, the traditional concepts of gender still exist in the life of both men and women. Due to that, women have to face more difficulties and they have to deal with the burdens by themselves without sharing with any other person. Especially for women in mineral mining affected areas, livelihood transfer brings both positive and negative impacts. At a certain viewpoint, women have to try harder and by doing that; they confidently express their ideas as well as actively participate in community events. However, because labour is divided by gender, women income is still under the systematically effect by out-dated prejudices.

Gender mainstreaming hasn’t been reflected clearly in policy. There is a specific difference between mineral mining policies and gender policies. Among laws, policies and environmental impact assessment reports on mineral mining field, just a small part mentioned about the “community”. The term “community” only appeared in the section of “public consultation”. However, the participation of the community in decision-making processes especially on mineral mining licensing procedure is blurred. Not yet mentioned about the difference in terms of needs and characteristics between men and women, the gender issues haven’t been integrated comprehensively in relevant policies and laws. Last but not least is the absence of civil organizations namely a Women Union. For that reason, the benefits and needs of the community in general and women in particular haven’t been accounted for in policies related to mineral mining sector.

Moreover, the legal framework not only ignores the practical gender issues and but also imposes old prejudices on women. Neglecting women opinions in the mineral mining consultation process resulted in the negative impacts on community and each family.

Finally, the research presents recommendations and suggestions to solve emerging problems related to mineral mining activities. In order to find appropriate solutions to these problems, the consistent and close coordination of different levels in a wider context is required. However, gender is considered as an underlying element in the mineral mining sector; to bring the gender issue into play, there are some solutions as the following: Firstly, focus on the role of civil society organizations. Whenever conducting the mineral mining activities, the needs, wants, and aspiration of both men and women should be taken into account. And all of these issues should be placed under the gender equality objective. Secondly, pay attention to the sector of women because women are primarily responsible for family life in terms of production and reproduction. Thirdly, there should be serious consideration on a gender equality perspective in implementing and monitoring the mineral policy execution processes. State management agencies should listen and respect the opinions of the community, especially women. Finally, all stakeholders involving in the implementation and monitoring of Mineral law and Law on Environmental protection should understand thoroughly the nature and fundamental principles of Law on Gender Equality.”

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Gender – the blind factor in mining in Vietnam