Empowering Women in Kakamega’s Gold Mining Areas: A Bold Initiative to Combat Gender-Based Violence and Foster Gender Equality

By Seliphar Machoni

In the gold mining areas of Kakamega County, there are prevalent myths and misconceptions about women’s involvement in the mining process.

Women face significant challenges, including unreported cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), leading to adverse consequences such as HIV/AIDS infections, teenage pregnancies, and school dropouts.

To address this issue, a Community Based Organization (CBO) has initiated a project funded by Amplify Change to combat GBV.

The project aims to conduct screenings, establish a community champion network, and involve men in the fight against GBV.

The Executive Director, Halima Nyota, emphasizes the importance of securing women and girls in mining communities and working towards gender equality in leadership.

The issue of gold-related sexual exploitation has led to HIV/AIDS infections, teenage

pregnancies, school dropouts, and other retrogressive practices posing risks to women and girls.

“Violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of their

under-development, since many women experience economic and social discrimination due to violence, while the majority’s economic and social conditions increase their vulnerability to gender-based violence,” she explained.

Nyota mentioned that the project, supported by funding from Amplify Change, is set to be

executed over the next 18 months in Ikolomani, Shinyalu, and Bushiangala.

Amplify Change, a worldwide organization, assists Civil Society Organizations in implementing initiatives focused on achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for everyone.

“Any form of violence violates human rights, impacting children, girls, and even men. For instance, in January, there were numerous femicide cases reported in the country. Our goal is to ensure the full potential of women and girls in mining communities is safeguarded,” she added

The organization recognizes the need to strengthen GBV referral pathways and collaborate with various stakeholders, including the police and gender department.

Economic violence, particularly the emotional toll caused by gambling-related distress, is identified as a common issue among mining communities

The Executive Director highlights the organization’s intention to include men in the champions network to actively combat GBV.

Additionally, they advocate for promoting women’s leadership to address gender disparities within the initiative.

“We are focused on enhancing the referral pathways for Gender-Based Violence (GBV),

recognizing the distinction between reporting a case and ensuring prompt action. We are

collaborating with various gender sector working groups to ensure that, as cases arise, both the police and the gender department are readily available to support survivors,” she noted.

Imelda Barasa, the County Coordinator of Reproductive Health Services, emphasizes that emotional violence is the predominant and most severe form of violence within mining communities.

She recounts a case: “there was a time a man earned over Sh15000 in one instance after

mining gold which he later lost in gambling, because of that, he has not spoken to his family as he is extremely distressed.”

Barasa underscores the prevalence of economic violence, particularly when men outearn women in gold mining.

Government reproductive health initiatives in Shinyalu Sub County, primarily inhabited by mining communities, have significantly reduced teenage pregnancies and HIV infections with support from stakeholders.

The Reproductive Health Coordinator actively addresses HIV infections and school dropouts in gold mining communities, receiving support from various stakeholders.

Edward Wambani, County Chair of Civil Society Network, urges National and County

governments to provide data on gender-based violence (GBV) for targeted interventions.

“We want to ensure that we eliminate GBV cases amongst the Gold mining communities by the end of the 18-month project phase,” he said

He appreciates the Kakamega county government for establishing a GBV Rescue Centre in Shinyalu, a crucial resource for handling referral cases.

Florence Khaunga, who has dedicated almost a decade to working at the mining site, believes that the initiative will be advantageous for the workers, helping to prevent biases and abuses that commonly occur at such sites.

“I’ve been employed at this mining site in Shinyalu for nearly a decade, but the extent of harassment from male colleagues is overwhelming. We experience sexual abuse as a condition for opportunities, which is unacceptable. The initiative will play a crucial role in addressing and mitigating these challenges,” she explained.

She added that during her time at the site, there has never been equality, as women are consistently sidelined and prevented from owning a mining shaft.

“Women at most mining sites have been excluded and denied ownership of mining shafts or seats in decision-making groups. Currently, only men occupy these positions, leaving women behind. We urge these organizations to establish policies that address our concerns and promote equality,” she added.

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