By Amy Fallon, with contributions from Tamika Halwiindi, Transparency International Zambia.
“To combat corruption, supporting women’s voices and agency is critical”
30 November 2021
Transparency International Zambia is supporting women to meaningfully take part in consultations through the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.
In Kasempa, a remote and underdeveloped part of Zambia’s North-Western province, a mining licence is about to be awarded. The community is preparing themselves for consultation about the potential environmental impacts of a mining project.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) help to identify and communicate to the public the potential environmental and social consequences of proposed projects, such as new mining operations. Comprehensively identifying the impacts of mining and the consequences for local communities is essential to developing effective plans to prevent and minimise the impacts.
“But meetings are attended mostly by men, and women sit behind,” one woman tells TI Zambia, describing a community consultation.
When operations begin, it’s the same story. “With the coming of the mine, we were excited and expected employment and at least a market for our produce. But that is not happening apart from the few jobs, mostly for men, and the mine does not buy our produce,” says another woman.
“But in Zambia’s patriarchal society, gender roles are ascribed by social, cultural and traditional norms and this means that EIAs affect genders differently,” says Tamika Halwiindi, Project Officer for Transparency International Zambia.
“In some instances, women don’t even know that they have a right to participate in the EIA process. When they do, they’re often left out of it, because it’s male-led, or don’t take part in it, because men assume that women will not understand the process.”
This is backed up in research conducted by TI Zambia’s local transparency action groups (TAGs).
According to TI Zambia’s fieldwork, communities do not often know how EIA and environmental project briefs (EPBs) are conducted or how they can participate in consultations. They may be unaware of project details, or licences may be granted to companies without their knowledge. Local authorities are even sometimes left out of the process. When they are made available, EIA reports can be too technical for communities to truly understand the potential impacts. This is particularly the case for poorer women with limited education opportunities.
When women cannot take part or participate meaningfully in the EIA process, this most likely will result in EIAs and mitigation plans that fail to take into account how environmental factors uniquely affect women. Without the views and input of women to hold mining companies accountable for the impacts of their projects, dishonest companies are more likely to be able to get away with providing misleading information and avoiding their environmental obligations.
ADDRESSING GENDER DISPARITIES IN PARTICIPATION
To increase women’s knowledge of the EIA process, TI Zambia sought out relevant government ministries and bodies to work with. One key partner was the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), the country’s independent environmental regulator and coordinating agency.
Together, they created public information materials that simplified the EIA process so that it would be better understood by women and others in communities. They also published EIA report summaries in clear, simple language, which were then distributed to host communities.
TI Zambia also supported the country’s Ministry of Mines and the Mining Cadastre Department to promote an online portal to share information on mining licences and rights.
“It’s important that communities are armed with knowledge so that they can ask mining companies and consultants important questions on mining impacts, opportunities for them from the project, and how the company will deal with the negative impacts.”
“Many women often don’t understand the extent to which they’re affected disproportionately to men until extraction activities commence and then it may be too late,” says Tamika.
“TI Zambia is working hard to address the gender disparities in mining decisions that we have identified,” she says.
“We have become increasingly aware that to combat corruption, supporting women’s voices and agency is critical. Women need to have a seat at the table and they need to be part of decisions about mining projects.”