Gender and Mining Governance

11 November 2020

What has corruption got to do with gender and mining?

“Today, I’m going to tell you about what we’ve learned about the connection between gender, mining and corruption.”

Lisa Caripis is the Research and Policy Manager for Transparency International’s Accountable Mining Programme. She presented a short lecture in the Gender and Mining Governance course from Learning for Nature, a premiere e-learning programme from the United Nations Development Programme. This lecture is based on work led by the Accountable Mining Programme’s Gender Coordinator, Roscel Diego, to integrate gender into the programme’s research, tools and strategy.

Below is an abridged transcript of the 15-minute lecture.

But first some background on our work

TI’s Accountable Mining Programme works with country offices (‘chapters’) in over 20 resource-rich countries. We’ve been working to tackle corruption at the very start of the mining governance cycle, or value chain. We’re focused specifically on that early phase when governments make decisions about new mining projects and expansions – the licensing and approvals phase. This includes negotiating contracts, issuing licences, granting concessions.

The licensing phase is a critical moment for tackling corruption, as one in five corruption cases take place at this stage.

Importantly, decisions made about whether or not a project goes ahead and under what conditions can affect the lives and livelihoods of people – and women are often disproportionately affected by corruption.

What is corruption?

“Abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”


This means all actors entrusted with some kind of power in the mining sector can engage in corruption. Government officials have authority vested in them; mining companies have relative financial power and information or technical expertise compared to government or communities; and traditional leaders hold a position of power to represent and act in the interest of the community they represent.

The three links between gender, mining and corruption

We’ve identified three links between gender, mining and corruption.

  • Firstly, women may be exposed to gendered forms of corruption.
  • Secondly, corruption can have unique and disproportionate impacts on women.
  • Thirdly, and the main focus for this lecture, women’s participation in the governance of the sector is critical to prevent corruption and ensure that government decisions and decisions made at a community level are transparent, accountable and respect the rights and interests of women.

It is important to remember the different roles that women play in the mining sector.

  • Women are industry participants – not only as workers in mining companies but also as artisanal and small-scale miners.
  • Women are members of host communities affected by mining projects; or as part of Indigenous communities with protected rights and whose free, prior and informed consent is required before the project can go ahead.
  • Women also participate in mining sector governance. Women and women’s groups have a critical role to play as enablers of good governance, collectively advocating for women’s rights and interests to be accounted for in decision-making and contributing to anti-corruption movements.

Gendered forms of corruption affecting female artisanal and small-scale miners

Women who work as artisanal or small-scale miners should have an equal right to apply for a licence and not be exposed to barriers or discriminatory gendered treatment – like sexual extortion.

Sexual extortion or sextortion is a form of corruption primarily affecting women seeking access to government services. It involves an implicit or explicit demand from a person in a position of authority for any kind of sexual favour in exchange for performance of their formal duties. Women dependent on artisanal and small-scale mining for their livelihood may be vulnerable to sexual extortion by government officials in exchange for processing or approving their licence application, especially when attending the licensing agency and interacting with officials alone. This is an area that deserves further research and investigation

Gendered impacts of corruption in the mining sector

Gender inequality combined with corruption leads to gendered impacts.

Corruption can have a disproportionate and unique impact on women in mining host communities by exacerbating the inequality that women already experience. Women, particularly those in remote or rural areas where mining takes place, are often in a disadvantaged position because of unequal gender and power relations, lack of access to and control of land and economic resources, and because of entrenched discrimination.

To understand the gendered impacts of corruption, we need to think about the aspects of women’s lives at the community level that could be affected.

  • Women’s livelihoods – are women dependent on the land in ways that is unique to men? For example, to feed their families. If corruption results in women being dispossessed of their land – their livelihoods will be directly affected.
  • Women’s domestic responsibilities – when corruption results in an unqualified company getting the licence to start a project and that company’s mining operations pollute local water supplies – women responsible for caregiving and cooking will have to travel further to access fresh water. They may be exposed to gender-based violence

The impacts of corruption on women will depend on the context.

Women’s participation is critical to combatting corruption

For the mining sector to be truly transparent, accountable and governed in a way that puts the interests of people first, women must be able to participate and have their voices heard in decision-making about mining projects.

Women and women’s groups are key enablers and facilitators of anti-corruption efforts. Women in civil society organisations and at the community level – when given the space to express their voice and agency – play an important role in demanding greater transparency and accountability and in advocating for women’s rights, interests and concerns to be included in decision-making about mining projects.

In this sense, strategies to tackle corruption will only be truly effective if they enable women’s voice and agency. To do that, they must address the barriers created by gender inequality that hinder women’s participation in decision-making and accountability efforts.

Barriers to women’s participation 

Barriers that need to be addressed to enable women’s participation in decisions related to mining projects include:

  • Low levels of literacy among women in mining-affected communities limits their ability to access and understand information about new mining projects and their impacts, as well as their legal rights to consultation and consent processes. This undermines their ability to participate in community consultations, defend their land rights, and ensure their interests are accounted for in agreements with companies and environmental and social management plans – making it easier for the company to provide misleading information about project impacts, conduct tokenistic consultation or ignore consultation requirements altogether.
  • Gender norms that deter women in mining-affected communities from participating in community discussions or from collectively organising to advocate for their rights and interests in decisions about awarding mining licences undermine women’s ability to hold community leaders, government and companies accountable for self-serving conduct – making it easier for those actors to commit corrupt acts and get away with it. For example, we’ve seen from our colleagues work in Ghana and South Africa – female traditional leaders not being recognised by law are more easily excluded from consultations; excluding women’s perspectives in the process.
  • Lack of formal title to land – Many mining projects occur in places where formal title or rights to land are not documented or recorded in a registry. Women in particular may be less able to secure legal recognition or ownership of their rights because of traditional and administrative barriers. Also, male relatives or husbands may traditionally be the ones with the power to decide in dealings with land. Without legally recognised rights or title to land, women will be unable to protect their interests and negotiate with mining companies whose licence will cover that land – making it easier for companies to ignore women’s interest in land and for male relatives to take advantage and exclude women from negotiations and dealings with land for their own benefit.

Anyone whose livelihood, rights and interests are affected by a new mining project should have access to information about the project, its potential impacts and have a say about how their land and livelihoods are affected. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments, human rights assessments are all about assessing and minimising the impact of the mining project and need to include women’s perspectives too.

Recommendations to key stakeholder groups to support women’s participation

    • Companies: Host gender-inclusive consultations; address barriers to women’s participation, including in the information provided and consultation/engagement platforms.
    • Government: Recognise women’s traditional leadership and land ownership; make consultation requirements clear, including with regard to women’s participation; fund programmes that support women’s education and civic engagement.
    • Civil society organisations: Support women’s participation by improving their understanding of their rights, brokering communication with mining companies and government and supporting them to advocate on issues that concern them that could be affected by mining.


We are only starting to understand the links between gender, mining and corruption.

This lecture has touched on three key aspects – gendered forms of corruption, gendered impacts of corruption and the importance of women’s participation in the mining sector to combat corruption.

To address the unique impacts of corruption on women and to tackle the barriers that prevent women from participating meaningfully in mining-related decisions in your country, you will need to understand the particular gender dimensions of corruption risks in that context.

Transparency International’s MACRA Tool provides a structured process and gender-sensitive approach to corruption risk assessment and prevention.

We encourage researchers and practitioners to use this tool to improve our collective knowledge and understanding about the links between mining, corruption and gender.

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