It is for go getters, be that iron lady: Chiedza Chipangura confronts mining related obstacles
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Over the years, women in Zimbabwe have been making inroads into the male dominated mining industry with about 11-15% of the estimated 50 000 small scale mines in the country owned by women according to Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation.
Despite these significant strides noted about women in mining, much publicity has tended to focus on impediments to successful women mining ventures. To Chiedza Chipangura; much focus should be on how women miners should confront challenges in the extractive sector to improve livelihoods, grow the economy and inspire generations.
Her message is that synergies, starting small, education and trainings as well as avoiding discrimination on the basis of gender can act as panaceas to some of the obstacles faced by women miners.
Growing up in Kariba in the early 80s and drawing inspiration from Mr Gumbo; one of the then richest black man who was into quarry mining prompted Chiedza Chipangura (also known as Dr Chichi) to have a spark for mining. Her background catapulted her love for mining as she also worked in different capacities in Zimbabwean foundry companies.
“Having worked in a male dominated environment, where you are running the foundry with men and you are the only lady, probably with the receptionist taught me to be bold, strong, and to take challenges head on,” Chipangura told The Mining Vision Magazine. “I have worked for Central African Forge, one of the largest foundries in the country, being in that industry and having mines as our suppliers who were capable of financing company expenses for one year by a single order made me think that I had to own a mine one day.”
Although she says she has not yet reached the apex of mining, Chipangura believes she has made it as a small scale miner as she can now finance her own operations and use her own machinery in her mining ventures. She is a miner with interest in Mashonaland West Province of Zimbabwe.
“I am into gold mining, chrome mining, glitter stone mining, and gemstone mining and I have been doing this since 2016. In gold mining, I am mining as an individual and with chrome mining, we are doing this as an association of women since we got a tribute from one of the leading chrome smelting companies Afrochine Smelting Private Limited, where we got our 152- hectare tribute to mine chrome.”
Chipangura and other 23 women extract chrome from their tribute before the smelter comes to collect and make payment on a cash basis. Against her background, Dr Chichi believes that women can also start saving little by little to venture into mining as opposed to just mentioning funding as an inhibiting factor.
“Yes there is a huge outcry that there is no finance, no knowledge etc, I think for any woman to be successful in this sector, you need to be a go getter. No matter how much efforts are being made by the government to fund women based projects, imagine how many women do we have in the country?”
“Start small, I started by buying my own tools, shovels and picks; start artisanal and then move on into small scale, get the little that you get and then move it towards funding your operations. Make it your seed money and don’t use it for daily consumption, remain focused.”
She noted that this will save women miners from some of the bottlenecks that can inhibit them from successfully obtaining loans. These include proof of deliveries, collateral and others. The former Zimbabwe Miners Federation Chairperson for Mashonaland West also advised women not to discriminate themselves on the basis of gender to avoid being taken advantage of and also to empower themselves on technical mining skills.
“Remember there is no mining for women, mining is mining, so when we talk about women in mining, don’t think that the way that the shovel or the way a pit is dug is going to be different because you are a woman,” she hinted. “It is just as difficult as it is for men, so you need to be bold, don’t look at your gender, but have that attitude to say that, I am going to do it.”
Chipangura also underscored the need for formal education and training in the meaningful extraction of resources.
“Before I ventured into gold mining, I took my time, got myself engaged with the Zimbabwe School of Mines for training in fundamentals in mining. That was a good base for me because it gave me the hope and an insight on what to expect,” she elaborated. “Although on the ground, it is totally different, I have been capacitated enough to know what to look forward to in the operations of gold mining.
Dr Chipangura, an advocate for women empowerment in the mining sector also told The Mining Vision Magazine that: “I have soldiered on because I took time to enhance my capacity through training and involvement because I am there when my employees do it, when they are milling or extracting.”
“Personal involvement has actually enhanced me and when you know that you have no option, you just soldier on,” she told this publication citing that: “When you are starting a new project, there is a time when you are taken advantage of as a woman and remember there is also much pilferage that can happen; I become the iron lady, I do not hesitate to get rid of anybody who is not doing things professionally, I have lives to protect as well.”
“At times people vandalize equipment, steal from you or become purely lazy. I become the iron lady as a person should know who calls the shots regardless of me wanting their labor; sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and you need to consider the commercial value of what you are doing,” she exclusively revealed. “But out of them, there are really the good ones who are committed, so you really need to be involved for you to survive.”
She tipped aspiring and those already established women miners to leverage on synergies to realize greater potential in their mining endeavors. In her experience, she creates relationships, hire people with expertise and utilizes her own knowledge from trainings to make meaningful mining ventures.
“When I got into glitter stone mining, I got into a partnership with one partner who had been doing it for more than 14 years; he has got the knowledge, I came up with the financing, structures and set up systems,” she highlighted to the Mining Vision Magazine adding that: “Synergies with employees and partners have actually enhanced me.”