Significant progress has been made towards gender equality and women's empowerment in the past 15 years, yet women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence worldwide. Gender equality is both a fundamental human right and necessary foundation for a sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making will promote sustainable economies and benefit societies at large. All ICMM members implement the 10 principles that underpin our Sustainable Development Framework. Principle 3 requires companies to respect human rights and the interests, cultures, customs and values of employees and communities.
In a number of countries, legal restrictions on women’s right to work at night have been significant barriers to female participation in the workforce and opportunities for career progression. In response to such legal restrictions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mine management at MMG’s Kinsevere copper mine championed a change in the law. As a result, the Government amended Labour law 15/2002 in 2016.
Restrictions of women’s right to work at night
The labour law in the DRC prohibited women from working at night in industry since 1968 (Conditions of work for women and children). This was in line with the ILO Night Work (Women) Convention 89 of 1948, which has now also changed to allow women to work night shifts.
The World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law (2016) includes restrictions on night work by women as one of the legal limitations on equality of opportunity for women’s employment. These type of restrictions contradict MMG’s corporate policy on gender diversity and inclusion.
Barriers to women’s participation in mining in the DRC
In the DRC, MMG owns 100% of the Kinsevere copper mine and employs a workforce of 2,431 as of 2016. Ten per cent of employees are female. The labour law preventing women from working at night was limiting women’s potential earnings and curtailing their career progression. As a result, there were no women in supervisory positions.
Advocating for change in the DRC
The Kinsevere human resources and management teams sought to improve the situation. First, they consulted with the female workforce to understand their concerns. Then they engaged with the Minister for Labour, the Governor of Katanga, labour inspectors and trade unions to raise concerns with the legislation.
At that time, the labour law was being revised. It was an opportune time for the Minister of Labour to submit the request before Parliament to allow women to work night shifts
An important moment for women’s right to participate in the labour force
MMG’s support for this landmark decision to change the law in the DRC is an example of achieving progress in promoting regulatory and social change in the communities where the mining company operates. More Congolese women will now be able to work in many other mines in one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world.
The women employed at Kinsevere can now apply for any role – including those in operations – and have a clear path to attain a role as a shift supervisor. The benefits of the legislative change are best expressed by these women themselves:
“This change has definitely opened new doors that allow many women to challenge the way things have always been done; it has broken barriers in our professional progress.” Thecla Meli, Supervisor – HR Operations
“I am one of the women who have benefited the most from this change in Labor Law, being one of the six female Mine Technicians who are now able to work during night shifts. When I first joined Kinsevere, my male colleagues were curious about my abilities, but women have showed that we have the same abilities and talents and the gender difference is no longer an issue. Now the mine has become a more gender neutral working area and is a popular place to work for female employees. My male colleagues make me feel comfortable and being a mother, I know how to balance my time when I’m at work and when I’m at home with my children. I hope I can serve as an example for many women in the DRC and others who would like to work in the mining industry. I am proof that working at the mine and on the night shift is possible.” Sylvie Kayind, Mine Technician
Building on success
Strategies will be implemented to ensure MMG’s female workforce on site is provided with further training and exposure to operational roles, including mining and processing to prepare them for any employment opportunities that may arise. This will help promote greater gender diversity in the operational workforce and will ensure that there are no competency issues that may prevent extension of the initiative to other departments.
MMG is also working with its male workforce to promote diversity and reinforce open-mindedness and acceptance to this positive, significant change in their working environment.