A partnership geared towards the economic empowerment of women living in and around Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mines (ASGM) in the Western region of Ghana was, on Friday, launched in Accra.

Three international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)-Healthy Entrepreneurs, Simavi and Solidaridad- are implementing the five-year partnership, dubbed: ‘Going for Gold (GfG)’ Ghana which is being funded by the Netherlands Government at the cost of 4 million euros.

For the next five years, the three NGOs will be working in carefully-selected ASGM communities in the Western region to improve working conditions for women within the gold mines and to increase their livelihood opportunities including the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills.

Specifically, the programme aims to increase the abilities of women in ASGM in the target communities to enable them engage in economic activities, with emphasis on sexual and reproductive health rights and access to and control over resources, and improve working conditions for women in the small-scale mining sector.

In a key note address at the launch, Ms Sabia Kpekata, Programmes Officer, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, noted that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors was essential to building stronger economies.

Ms Kpekata noted that there was potential for growth and prosperity when women were empowered and were effectively involved in decision-making processes.

She, therefore, commended the ‘GfG’ initiative and called for more strenuous efforts and collaboration among stakeholders to reform laws and social norms or institutions and, thereby, break down institutional and systemic barriers that inhibited women’s empowerment, participation, productivity and development.

In an address delivered on his behalf, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, pledged government’s commitment to the proper development and management of the small-scale mining sector so as to harness its potential for national development.

To that effect, Mr Mills said a number of interventions had been made by government to reduce illegal small-scale mining and to promote a formalized and well-structured small-scale mining sector.

He stressed the need for the GfG programme to be implemented with professionalism to ensure sustainable benefits and register a visible impact on the beneficiaries.

In a presentation, Ms Renate Douwes, Programme Manager, Simavi-Ghana urged mine managements to co-invest in responsible and fair mining standards.

Welcoming participants to the launch, Mr Isaac Gyamfi, Regional Director, Solidaridad West Africa, said the GfG programme was in line with Solidaridad’s work ethics and philosophy while the programme objectives and implementation approach aligned with Solidaridad’s Medium-Term Strategic Development Plan.

He stressed the need for responsible mining through improved production processes, adding that Solidaridad had the expertise to ensure a successful programme and that the initiative would complement government efforts in promoting responsible mining and to mainstream international best practices into mine management.

In his remarks, the Chairman for the occasion and Chief of Bompiaso, Nana Atta Brempong II, commended the three NGOs for the initiative and described the initiative as a relief to women whose farmlands had been given out a mining concessions.

Nana Atta Brempong said the programme was in line with the vision of the community and pledged the support of the chiefs to the successful implementation of the GfG programme.

Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa and half of the 250,000 people directly working in ASGM are women.

However, while gold mining brings enormous benefits to families and communities, opportunities for women are very restricted.

The responsibility to have and care for children, limited access to health services and prevailing socio-cultural norms prevent women from the benefits of mining and other economic activities.

Beyond the mines, women’s opportunities to engage in economic activity and improve their status are affected by their limited access to health care and family planning.

Access to health facilities is particularly low in and around ASG mines and when present, an estimated 60 per cent of the facilities have inadequate capacity.

The GfG programme is, therefore, expected to work with gold mines according to international standards that promote responsible business practices such as legal mining operations, labour rights, gender rights and environmental protection.

GfG is also designed to facilitate working closely with women and communities outside the gold mines to increase their understanding of sexual and reproductive health, and create an environment in which communities, health workers and authorities recognize women’s rights.

It is also designed to provide tangible income-generating opportunities for women to work as health entrepreneurs, providing health products and information in the surrounding communities.

Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)