By: Thandiwe Kubere

Statistics reveal that women constitute a majority of the population across African nations. Despite this, they are frequently excluded from pivotal conversations that shape national development and economic strategies.

This disparity extends to the mining industry, a sector with significant potential to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. Yet, women’s involvement remains markedly low.

In response to this imbalance, the Lesotho Women in Mining Association (LEWIMA) was founded to transform the landscape and promote the inclusion of women in this vital sector.

Aligned with the objectives of the SADC Women in Mining Association, LEWIMA emerges under the leadership of Mamphuto Jessie – a trailblazer who has also made significant strides in the traditionally male-dominated transport sector.

LEWIMA stands as a beacon for every woman engaged in the mining industry, whether their focus is on advocacy, entrepreneurship, community initiatives, or educational endeavors.

“When you see important things, you do not complain. You sit, think and act. There is a lot of work ahead of us in communities.

“For women who want to join the association, mining is hard work but it pays. We are here for each other and we are going to give it a try, all in the hope that it will pay off”, asserts Jessie.

Although women have been participants in the mining sector for many years, their presence has been disproportionately small relative to that of men.

Recent studies conducted at the mines of the Kingdom of Lesotho show that women represent approximately 30% of the workforce involved in mining activities

“This revelation prompted us to encourage more women to come forth and occupy positions within the sector.

“We want to see more women-led businesses being involved with mining. We want to see young girls take technical courses and excel as Engineers, Environmentalists, and more”, expresses LEWIMA’s Public Relations Officer, Mamokhants’o Refiloe.

The association is established to be in support of such.

LEWIMA is constituted of women with different skills who work towards a similar role. As more women join in and participate, more skills are obtained.

The association is committed to conducting research that addresses and supports the specific needs of women in the mining sector. It will also organize training sessions to facilitate skill development and knowledge exchange.

Additionally, LEWIMA plans to collaborate with schools to inspire and foster a passion for technical subjects among young girls, paving the way for future generations of women in mining.

“We want to advocate for policies to be more inclusive of women in this space. And, we would like to see livelihoods of women in mining communities improved”, says Refiloe.

She emphasizes that women have the inherent potential to thrive in the mining industry, owing to their close connection with the environment.

Basotho women, in particular, are well-suited to steward environmental conservation. As custodians of nature, their awareness of mining’s significant environmental impact is crucial.

She says, “We encourage their active participation, for if women, tasked with safeguarding the environment for future generations, remain passive, the challenge remains: how will we restore the land upon which so much depends?”

“We are in a position where Lesotho is very competitive globally when it comes to mining activities, but we don’t see the economy getting impacted, so we believe women can answer to that through their participation.

“It is time they finally take their role as leaders. The doors to those who want to join LEWIMA are open, because the journey ahead of us is quite a long one and there is a lot of work to be done”, she emphasizes.

She affirms the journey is only starting, there are many projects the association is yet to engage in so a variety of forms of support is helpful. 

It is also appreciative of men who aid with their skills and expertise – although not necessarily as part of the association, for it is only for women.

Jessie adds that there is more to mining than meets the eye.

LEWIMA has women who are mining sandstone at Lekokoaneng, with incoming clay women miners.

“We are yet to change the perception because when people think of Lesotho, they think of diamonds, but we have more to offer than that.”