Limited systemically and culturally, females experience gross disparity in the extractive sector resulting in tragic economic malaise and physical and mental trauma. Driven by hand to mouth sustenance for their families, women spend decades in the trenches of rubble and mud searching for gold dust. They experience physical, emotional and sexual violence, are prone to specific physical occupational hazards, and susceptible to higher economic vulnerability.
In efforts to reduce illegal ASGM, Ghana has implemented various unimpressive tactics. In 2017, Ghana launched Operation Vanguard, a joint Military and Police Taskforce (JTF). 400 personnel, comprising 200 military and 200 police personnel were deployed to identified affected areas. Though the Operation arrested thousand of illegal miners and seized hundreds of excavators and other machineries, they were responsible for excessive, unprovoked force resulting in unscrupulous deaths and female targeted brutality. Claims of vulnerable females being beaten, chased with children in tow, and fired at with live ammunition were rampant. Operation Vanguard has since been replaced by a directive within the Ghana Armed Forces, only for communities, especially women, to experience a continued diminution of human rights.
Nearly 100% Women in galamsey report occupational injuries, which due to inadequate healthcare, go untreated. Reports of lacerations to the feet, legs, arms and hands from punctures of sharp rock and crude tools result in abscesses and infection. Neck and backpain from carrying obscenely heavy loads of clay become lifelong ailments. Mercury poisoning from dermatological contact and inhalation result in reproductive disfunction.
Furthermore, unlike their male counterparts, women’s salaries drop drastically during the dry season when water to wash the ore is scarce. Women are the first to be terminated when extraction productivity slows. Traditionally, women are forbidden from working within the mines during their menstrual cycle, further diminishing their monthly income. The profit to be made off of vulnerable female workers is outstanding.
Ghana is the number one gold producer on the African continent. Foreign multinational companies own the vast majority of Ghana’s gold wealth amounting to a disturbing ecological imperialism. According to The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in Ghana only in 2019 around $9 billion worth of gold exports remained unaccounted, being smuggled to the major importer nations like India, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. The foreign monopoly of natural resources and its collateral consequences of land appropriation, livelihood deprivation and environmental degradation, marginalizes ASGM who are desperate to share in the earth’s profits.