What are the Gender Dimensions of Child Labour in Mining?

Child labour in mining is gendered. Girls and women primarily wash the minerals, sell food and products around the mining site, are involved in sex work in the mining area and perform household duties. Boys and men transport minerals, control the washing process and dig and extract the minerals. To address the root causes of child labour its consequences and its gendered dimensions, as well as avenues for intervention in artisanal and small-scale mines (ASM), the Women’s Rights and Mining (WRM) working group organised a virtual roundtable on June 16, 2022.


The panellists emphasized that child labour is poverty-driven, and if child labour is tackled in one supply chain, a shift to another supply chain might occur. Subsequently, the webinar not only examined the gold and cobalt sector but included best-practice examples from the cocoa sector as well. The roundtable sought to understand how to improve women’s and girls’ access to decision-making processes and how policies can reflect their experiences thereby contributing to equity and justice.

Dr Cynthia Ozua Bailly (Social Researcher, Alassane Ouattara University) brought her research perspective to the table to explain how child labour in the mining sector has a panoply of causes. In Côte d’Ivoire, they include, among others, the poor sale of agricultural products in rural regions which depend on agriculture. Secondly, households often need multiple economic sources to sustain themselves. Thirdly, there may be a lack of other economic opportunities for families in thes

e areas. Lastly, children constitute an inexpensive workforce in comparison to adults.


Being engaged in child labour has different consequences for boys and girls. It can lead to physical and verbal abuse that is meant to improve the productivity of children. As Christopher Hanne Coulibaly’s (Sustainable Plans Leader, Alliance for Responsible Mining) case study on Burkina Faso exemplified, boys tend to experience more physical violence, i.e. beatings and food deprivation, whereas girls are more exposed to verbal abuse and sexual violence. Child labour leads to

school dropouts because the children are sent to the mining sites. In addition, mining is connected to sex work which occurs around the mine. Notwithstanding the health risks associated with injuries, the use of hazardous chemicals and carrying heavy loads.


Joanne Lebert (Executive Director, IMPACT) stressed the importance of considering women’s physical, economic, land, food and energy security. More specifically, how women’s security can potentially decrease child labour. Yaw Opoku Britwum (Social Development Specialist at the International Cocoa Initiative, Solidaridad) called for a multi-level approach to child labour. Accordingly, a fair mining sector can only exist if not only the target population’s conditions are on the agenda of the interventions (the children), but all the different stakeholders along the supply chain (traders, buyers, families, community leaders, and consumers) motivations’ need to be considered. Thus, moving away from the families’ responsibilities, discussants asked how to incentivise stakeholders to formalize their mines and refrain from employing children as cheap labourers. Especially regarding the latter’s interests in continuously increasing their economic margins. Since child work is part of the educational cycle in some communities, the question of how to navigate the social versus legal constructs surrounding the definition of child labour and children arose.


About WRM:


WRM is a collaborative space made up of researchers, NGOs and government representatives: ActionAid, Government of Canada, IMPACT, KIT Royal Tropical Institute, Solidaridad, GIZ, Simavi, Alliance for Responsible Mining, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We created a gender statement to solicit commitments across the value chain regarding gender and just launched the Retrospective Assessment Tool on Gender-Responsiveness in the Mining Sector to assess the gender inclusiveness of panels.


To get in touch directly with Women’s Rights and Mining, please send an email to  info@womenandmining.org or follow us on Twitter: @womensrightsan1.


To access the recording, please click here