Women miners

Before Ms Simona Broomes and her colleagues launched the Guyana Women’s Miners Association, the average Guyanese would only have known about a few women miners, one of them being Ms Cyrilda DeJesus, who for years had been the face of women miners in Guyana. Indeed, women who say they work ‘in the gold bush’, as the interior mining areas are colloquially called here, are unfairly all branded as loose and are stigmatized. But Ms Broomes, the members of her executive, Ms Carol Elliot-Fredricks, Ms Donna Charles, Ms Candy Charles, Ms Anne Hopkinson and the 70-odd women who have joined the association and work in the interior as miners, cooks and those who own their own dredges are in the process of changing this perception.

It is obvious from what Ms Broomes said during an interview with this newspaper, that working in the interior is a million times more challenging for women than it is for men; and men freely admit that it is hard work. But the physical challenges aside, there is abuse, exploitation, stigmatization, discrimination and bullying, among the other things women encounter on a daily basis.

The interior has long been virtually a no-man’s land, where much of what takes place remains unseen and goes unregulated. Over the past few years, as the price of gold climbed, so did the crime rate, with murders, suspected murders, disappearances, armed robberies, rapes and abuse – many of which go unreported or remain unsolved.

Ms Broomes described a particular case of abuse, where she personally got involved and helped a woman, who was not a miner and had not gone to the interior to work, escape her captor. She also referred to instances where women are forced into sex work by their male partners or by other women who exploit them. Women are also forced to become partners of men they do not want because the option would be rape with total impunity. When this happens, other miners turn a blind eye; there is no condemnation, no support for the victim, no ostracizing of the rapist/abuser. There are no police stations or outposts close to many of the mining sites and no one bothers to call the police unless the crime involves the loss of life, gold or money. Other crimes are met by a wall of silence from men and women who do not want to get involved, but are nevertheless condoning the obscenities by their inaction.

As Ms Broomes tells it, the gold-mining interior is a place where people, mostly women, have no rights. The rest of the country has progressed and become modernised, but the ‘gold bush’ is “a world by itself.” She reveals that no accommodation is made for bathroom facilities for women by some business and dredge owners, yet they travel to the coast and recruit women to work as cooks and shopkeepers.

Women like Ms Broomes, Ms DeJesus, Ms Fredricks, Ms Charles, Ms Hopkinson and others have proven that women have strengths that could be ably employed in the gold mining sector. They have started changing the industry from being a man’s world to a place where people with the right skills and business acumen can make their mark. These women and others who have gone before them are pioneering women. And if it has taken them this long to be properly recognized as such, it is because as in every other industry women have broken into, it has been and still is an uphill task. The pork-knocker is still depicted as a man with a warishee on his back and a batel in his hand and the miners association has always been male dominated. The Guyana Women’s Miners Association has set about to ensure that women have the right to do whatever jobs they are able to, whether its diving for diamonds, spinning a batel, driving a truck or operating earth-moving equipment, and that they are allowed to work in an environment that is free of fear and exploitation.

Latest in Editorial

default placeholder

Brexit’s referendum and the Caribbean

Caribbean citizens with long memories, or with knowledge of the establishment and demise of the West Indies Federation, of which of course Guyana, then British Guiana, was not a part, will probably have cringed when Prime Minister Cameron announced a referendum on Britain’s continued participation in the European Union.

default placeholder

Déjà vu?

The newly installed City Hall has gotten off to a bad start. Given the years of political controversy and public ridicule that preceded the recent local government elections, City Hall deserved better.

default placeholder

Parking meters deal

Anyone who listened to or read of the press conference held last Monday by the Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green on the visit of her team to Mexico in connection with the parking meters project would instantly come away with the view that the city is a hotbed for  machinations more associated with some medieval enclave rather than a municipality born of democratic elections and aspiring to transparent, open and accountable governance.

default placeholder

Britain’s referendum

Exactly how a people could vote in favour of inflicting damage on themselves must seem perplexing at first glance. In fact it is not so, given that those in Britain who voted to leave the European Union in Thursday’s referendum were hardly reticent about the reasons for their choice.

default placeholder

What’s the matter with Britain?

One way to make sense of Britain’s decision to quit Europe is to gaze across the Atlantic. Not long ago, during the years of the second Bush presidency, millions of America’s poorest citizens proved to be the Republican Party’s staunchest supporters.

default placeholder

Zero sum game

During the previous administration of the PPP/C, many commentators described the political status quo in Guyana as a zero sum game.

default placeholder

Hindsight and the Diamond well

In September last year, residents of Diamond Housing Scheme and some surrounding communities saw water cease to flow through their taps.

default placeholder

Britain’s vote on European Union membership

Tomorrow, the electorate of the United Kingdom votes on the issue of whether to remain or leave the European Union (EU).


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: