PALAPYE: The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) held a workshop to capacitate women from various mining houses in Botswana to fight gender-based violence (GBV) scourge, which is prevalent in the country, especially amongst women and the girl-child.
Various speakers at the workshop said GBV against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world and knows no social, economic or national boundaries.
The speakers also explained that GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and independence of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence, especially in Botswana where cultural practices are some of the factors that perpetuate it. The facilitators added that victims of GBV can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, emotional stress, and even death.
The training was convened by the Women’s Council of the BMWU in partnership with the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW) under the auspices of the Solidarity Centre.
The president of BMWU, Joseph Tsimako said the mining sector is historically a male-dominated industry, which is reflected in the composition of the BMWU.
“Women have, therefore, been disproportionately impacted by gender inequality than men. The policies and systems in many mining operations are not designed to cater for the needs of female workers and this has created an environment that is not conducive to the advancement of female workers in the mining industry and especially those in the bargaining unit,” Tsimako bemoaned. The BMWU leadership has also noted that there is little to no participation of women in its structures and that has been an area of concern to the leadership and “especially to me as the president of the BMWU”, Tsimako said.
“We have also noted with concern how inaudible the female voices are in the mining industry, let alone in the BMWU. It’s even harder to hear those who are not in management or in the leadership of institutions regulating mineral development in the country...,” he added.
Issues of gender disparity in the workplace, Tsimako noted, have necessitated widespread gender inequality, whether in terms of the progression of females in the workplace, equal pay for equal work done, on issues of safety and security, sexual and reproductive rights and other economic and social development challenges in the workplace.
“In the last two years the union has had to intervene in several cases of sexual harassment at various mining operations and in some cases the perpetrators being senior members of management and in some cases the perpetrators being union members. We have thus committed to educating union members on gender mainstreaming and harassment in the workplace through the Women’s Council. We have started to advocate for gender-sensitive policies in mining operations as part of the mining industry’s decent work agenda,” Tsimako said to a round of applause.
BMWU has through the BFTU, Tsimako explained, supported its campaign on the ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 – Violence and Harassment.
“We need to mobilise our members and other unions to rally behind the campaign for the ratification and subsequent domesticating of these conventions. International Treaties are not self-executing upon ratification in Botswana; therefore, we need to lobby and advocate for the domestication of this ILO Convention 190.”