This working paper looks at women’s experiences of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda to explore the gendered dynamics of ASM and the constraints and possibilities these place on women’s ASM livelihoods. The paper outlines several insights on norms around mining, gender mixing and the expectations of women regarding care work. These include:

  • Norms of decorum, modesty and the limits to appropriate contact between men and women, as well as stereotypes about women’s capabilities, feed into gendered job segregation and were held by both men and women.
  • Sexual harassment and intimidation are relatively common in mines, particularly where women are engaged in male-dominated activities such as machine operation or are working underground.
  • Women involved in mining (or work outside the home) are also subject to negative gossip about their domestic skills.
  • Beliefs about menstruating women bringing bad luck on miners resulted in women not entering mining pits.
  • Together these norms contributed to women being concentrated in less lucrative activities, such as crushing, washing and sifting sand and rock after extraction.