EMPOWER INDIGENOUS WOMEN
support economic inclusion and sustainability in Ghana
In 2019, Ghana surpassed South Africa, as the number one gold producer on the African continent. Foreign multi-national companies own the vast majority of Ghana’s gold wealth amounting to a disturbing ecological imperialism. The foreign monopoly of Ghana's natural resources has collateral consequences of land appropriation, livelihood deprivation and environmental degradation. Females in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) are desperate to share in the earth’s profits; they dig at the very bottom of the international supply chain. Constrained systemically and culturally, female miners experience gross disparity in the extractive sector resulting in economic stagnation. Driven by hand to mouth sustenance for their families, these women spend decades in the trenches of ruble and mud searching for gold dust. Gender injustice and imbalance within the ASGM exacerbates the feminization of poverty and prevents women from meaningful economic participation and independence.
Female artisanal and small scale gold miners largely work within galamsey or illegal mining. Operating in the shadows, their individual stories and collective narrative are unknown and undervalued. Furthermore, there is a paucity of data chronicling the specific impacts and barriers experienced by female ASGM workers in direct relation to labour market exclusion and economic disempowerment.
Unearthing Her Crown will give voice to the harsh and gendered reality of women surviving on the dust of Ghana’s multi-billion dollar extractive industry through the following actions:
- Collect and analyze empirical data for a baseline study revealing women’s unique challenges within the extractive sector.
- Present a stunning visual narrative illustrative of the human and social toll of females in ASGM.
- Identify gaps in the regulatory system for short and long-term legal and social recommendations that reach from marginalized catchment communities to supply chain accountability.
- Offer a comprehensive pathway to regulatory reform and the development of female-specific models of economic growth appropriate to the region.
- Foster the holistic inclusion of women in ASGM, contributing to the redistribution of social and financial wealth in remote communities of Amansie West, Obuasi, and Bolgatanga.
METHODOLOGY skip to the end for a parenthetical cliff note...because you know you want to!
Research will take an interdisciplinary quantitative and qualitative approach to ensure constructivist observations are supported by statistical analysis. The identified areas of Amansie West, Obuasi, and Bolgatanga are categorically different. Each area’s dynamic geography and geology dictates its mining practices. Workshops will be held in each area to engage women individually and collectively through surveys and round table discussions. Workshops will be grounded in the revaluation of women in their community and family systems, and how these relationships collaterally influence the prosperity of the community as a whole. Notably, the workshops will embolden women with rights-based agency and voice. An estimated sample of 80 surveys will be completed by women in the gold mining supply chain. Numerical data will offer descriptive and situational impacts, while suggesting a baseline for comparative international analysis. Interviews with stakeholders and key informants including traditional authorities, mining company executives, community advocates, Ministry members, legal officers, and allied NGO’s will offer social and historical nexus. Field walks and direct observations will supplement evidence. To deduce a cause and effect, a legal analysis of current legislation and governance will be conducted, including mineral and mining laws, foreign and indigenous ownership requirement restrictions, forestation and waterways, labour laws, and Ghanaian constitutional rights.
Five women from each mining community will be chosen for a day in the life documentary narrative through still photography. Using subject-forward and graphic composition techniques, the women will be shot at work, in their homes, and with their families. Building trust through compassion and time, will afford the photographer a rare and honest view of the women’s struggles. This level of intimacy is critical to the Project, as the individual stories belong to the women and not the photographer. A series of portraits will root each narrative, humanizing the individual.
(cliff notes: surveys, rights- based workshops, interviews, visual storytelling)
Melani Mennella, Human Rights Research Fellow, The Legal Resources Centre (Ghana)
Melani Mennella earned her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019 where she was a Public Interest Fellow working with the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, Botswana Edition. Melani has been a dedicated human rights defender for over fifteen years, including work in food security, livelihoods, and equitable social development. She honed analytical policy skills and legislative reform at the Vera Institute for Justice and the Council of the District of Columbia Ward 5. She is the proud recipient of the Barack Obama Award for Service for her commitment to the Downtown Women’s Center of Los Angeles and the Haitian American Caucus in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti. Melani is committed to the empowerment of the female identity and agency in fragile contexts. She awaits a virtual Covid-19 style swear-in to the District of Columbia Bar from Ghana.
Richard Ellimah, The Centre for Social Impact Studies (Ghana)
Richard Ellimah serves as the Executive Director for Centre for Social Impact Studies, a research and advocacy organization dedicated to Ghana's extractive industry and governance. His research has been funded by international development agencies including Integrated Social Development Centre, Natural Resource Governance Institute, United Nations Development Programme, and AngloGold Ashanti. As a Program Officer of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining, Richard promoted human and environmental rights through community leadership, mobilization, and activation. Since 2007, Richard has served on the Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay, Ghana. Richard is an Award Alum of the University of Queensland Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives. His reputation for comprehensive empirical data, transparency, and human rights surrounding natural resources is renowned.
Mariusz Smiejek, Freelance Documentarian Photographer (Poland, UK)
Mariusz Smiejek is an award winning freelance international photographer with two decades of experience specializing in the raw narrative of human and social conditions. Mariusz’s documentary work explores post conflict communities, refugee and asylum seekers, child slavery, street children, human trafficking, victimized women, dangerous livelihoods, corruption and systemic abuse. Harnessing a total immersion approach, Mariusz’s eye becomes an unadulterated and impartial window between the subject and the audience. He possesses the ability to navigate fragile and volatile contexts, and infrastructures with ease, including informal migrant encampments, remote West African villages, and urban uprisings. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, The British Journal of Photography, Time Magazine, BBC, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Un Frame, The Edge of Humanity, amongst others.