Diversifying jobs for women ASM miners in Ghana

When Alumna Rosemary Okla returned home from studying in Australia, she was in a strong position to support women in Ghana to find jobs and flourish in the small-scale mining industry, while operating responsibly and sustainably. Determined to find a solution, Rosemary began working on how Ghana could diversify from gold mining by creating jobs using other development minerals, especially jobs for women, young people and unskilled members of society.

The skills and knowledge Rosemary gained through her Australia Awards Short Course in Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives, which she completed at the University of Queensland in 2019, are being put to good use in her home country. After completing her Short Course, Rosemary focused her skills on building the capacity of Artisanal small-scale mining miners.

“High unemployment in Ghana led to an influx of people, including women, entering the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM), specifically in informal gold mining,” says Rosemary. Although industry experts do not agree on the numbers, some estimate that 200,000 Ghanaians made their living from ASM and indirectly supported up to three million people in the sector in 2017.

“While this led to exponential growth, there was a detrimental cost to the environment, including through water and air pollution and land degradation.” This is because the informal sector operates without rules and regulations that protect the environment.

As Geographic Information Systems Specialist at the Ghana Geological Survey Authority, Rosemary set to work motivating her organisation—which deals with geological mapping and mineral exploration—to produce clay and semi-precious stones into hand-made jewellery. The Authority supported Rosemary’s proposal, agreeing to provide the material needed to design and create the jewellery. “The ceramic division was put in charge of making jewellery for an exhibition,” says Rosemary. The pieces were sold, and the money invested in the creation of jobs for women in the industry.

Rosemary is sharing her knowledge within the sector, including by presenting a workshop titled “Promoting business diversification for artisanal small-scale miners, especially women,” hosted in partnership with the Women in Mining (WIM) Ghana. During the workshop, Rosemary shared critical soft skills she gained while in Australia with the 28 participants, of which 21 were women.

Already Rosemary’s initiatives have yielded positive results, including eight direct and three indirect jobs created in jewellery production, all taken up by women who participated in Rosemary’s workshop. Examples of their jewellery were displayed at one of Ghana’s largest industry conferences, the 2019 Gold Statement Conference held in Accra in December 2019. Key stakeholders in Ghana’s mining industry, including the Ghana Minerals Commission and Ghana Jewellers Association, attended the conference.

Another Australia Awards alumna, Georgette Barnes Sakyi-Addo, WIM’s president, said the workshop effectively promoted diversification from mining gold to using other developmental minerals, such as clay, semi-precious stones, sand and salt, to create jobs and improve livelihoods.

The knowledge Rosemary gained while studying in Australia developed her in-depth understanding of the many challenges and opportunities in the small-scale mining industry. “I’ve used this knowledge to continue to guide mining activities in my country,” says Rosemary. “It’s been important for the Authority and rewarding for me, both personally and professionally.”

Diversification in Ghana’s mining industry involves more than just using different materials, however. Success relies on miners switching to an entrepreneurial model that focuses on creating jobs for women, youth and unskilled members of society. “Sharing my knowledge on entrepreneurial and development minerals as a means of alternative mining is helping to create more job opportunities and boost the country’s economy, ” says Rosemary.

Rosemary continues to maintain professional links with her fellow alumni, including Gideon Ofosu-Peasah, who helped gain media coverage for the workshop.

Rosemary Okla is a member of the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network. The network has more than 400 female alumni members who focus on leading change in their spheres of influence, throughout the African continent. Learn more about the network.

Photo Credit: Rosemary Okla

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