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WomEng at the UN Women Regional Sharefair 2015

iMonday, Oct 19th, 2015 comments by Busisiwe Keke

The WomEng Kenya Experience at the 2nd Sharefair 2015

WomEng Kenya had the great privilege of attending the  UN Women Regional Sharefair on Gender Equality in the Extractive Industries at the UN in Nairobi, Kenya, from the 13th to the 15th of October 2015. The team comprised of the WomEng Kenya Director, Zani and her able assistant Annet, together with one of the Ambassadors, Keziah. They were ably joined by Shamiso  from WomEng South Africa who flew in to represent the WomEng team in South Africa.

This year’s Sharefair theme - Building on Good Practices - elaborated on the need to adopt, adapt and incorporate gender-sensitive policies and norms that would enable those involved in the extractive industries, especially women, to contribute and gain fairly. These include artisanal mining, oil and gas mining, and all extractive mining categories involving gems, stones, metals, at large, medium and small scale levels. The different roles, from geological surveying, marketing, hands-on mining to leadership and influencing policy-making, were highlighted as vital areas where the feminine influence and input could bring about better working conditions and more opportunities for the women in these industries.

Case in point: Kenya had, as at 2014, only 9.4% of women in its extractive industries. Most of them were not in the leadership/ policy influencing positions. It is a true but disheartening fact that many African countries face the same predicament. Superstitions and baseless beliefs have limited many women from participating fully in these industries, from Guinea to South Africa. Africa contains at least 30% of all the world’s mineral reserves implying that in order for Africa to gain from this immense wealth, the contribution of women (52% of the world’s population) cannot be ignored. We were reminded as WomEng of our vital role in mentoring the younger girls in high schools though the @GirlEng program and the ladies in universities through the @Fellowship program, and encouraging them to pursue, and stay in, engineering.

Not all is gloom. It was refreshing to hear the triumphs of women who own mines and mining companies in their countries. Some women have formed groups that have helped them market their artisanal works and gems. Different organizations have also committed monies and resources to boost the efforts of women in these industries. If the different industry players commit to adopt and implement gender-inclusive policies, sooner rather than later, we will see stronger African economies and a significant
reduction in poverty within the different communities. I can’t conclude before sharing a bit of the delight we had: delectable snacks and food, a few takeaways from the different exhibitors, some fun photos, and a sizable fan-following. I recon it had to do with the pink hard hats (yes, PINK HARD HATS!). A very ingenious prop idea for our exhibition booth, so much so that some of our visitors attempted to cajole us with song to let them have one (I still can’t get over this)! Most importantly, we were able to We got to expand our network and begin to form pan-African partnerships with like-minded organizations.

By Keziah Ntwiga (Ambassador, WomEng Kenya)

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