Protection of women's rights and achieving gender equality is among the world's major challenges and therefore requires effective, result-oriented and positive action by both the state and civil society actors. According to the UN Women, the rate of gender inequality has increased during the pandemic, including in Georgia, and the protection of women's rights remains as one of the most important issue on the path to democratic development.
Achieving the gender equality and Sustainable Development Goals is virtually impossible without the economic empowerment of women. That is why one of the main priorities of the state should be the introduction of the principles for women's empowerment, the improvement of women's living standards and the promotion of women's activism.
Gender inequality is particularly prevalent in sectors such as the mining industry. The social, economic, and environmental impacts of the mining industry often affect men and women differently. Women are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of mining activities and have less influence over the management of these processes. For example, women are rarely invited to the consultations regarding the management of income from the mining industry in the community. They also have little access to jobs.
The practice in the world, including in Georgia, shows that the benefits of the mining industry are unequally distributed among men and women. In many cases, men have more access to benefits related to employment and income, while women suffer more because of deteriorating social and natural environments. To compete the tasks assigned to them (such as care of the house, children, the elderly), they need to carry out activities such as water collection and due to the water pollution on a nearby territory, they may have to travel longer distances on a daily basis, etc. On the other hand, the involvement of women in mining industry projects is minimal and, consequently, the benefits they receive from this sector are very small. In the communities affected by the mining industry, the economic benefits (financial income) and social development derived from mining projects are focused on men. While women may have access to the land to cultivate it, men make deals with companies and they receive benefits, which is also related to the land ownership issues. It should be noted that the number of women employed in the mining industry is only 10%, while the unemployment rate for women in the communities affected by the mining industry is about 87%.
Against the background of these statistics, it is important to note that according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 50% reduction of gender inequality in the workforce can increase Member States' GDP by 6% by 2030 and with the eradication of the inequality altogether, this result may be improved by additional 6%. International experience shows that investing in women and ensuring their participation is important not only for their individual but for the socio-economic development of the community as well. At the same time, increasing women's employment opportunities has a positive impact on the development of both the business and the local economy.
The role of the state is crucial in promoting gender equality in the mining industry. However, no less important are the companies themselves, which are carrying out the mining activities. They are capable to help raise women’s awareness, improve their skills and employ them.
According to a survey of more than 1,000 companies by McKinsey, businesses with gender diversity have higher financial returns than other companies. They have a better chance of hiring the best workforce, meeting regulatory requirements for a diverse workforce, and creating an image of a responsible company. At the same time, they will be able to better meet the social responsibility indicators that investors are paying attention to.
In order to obtain information on the practice in Georgia, IDFI requested information from leading companies operating in the mining industry nationwide, namely RMG Gold Georgia, British Petroleum Georgia (BP), Chiatura Manganese Mine, Heidelberg Caucuses Cement, Geostone Marble and Georgian Industrial Group (GIG). IDFI requested information on the extent to which women are employed in companies operating in the Georgian mining sector; to what extent do these companies ensure the empowerment of women; to what extent do they advocate for the active involvement and employment of women in the mining industry; whether trainings, educational and awareness-raising programs and campaigns are offered to the local population, for example, citizens living in Chiatura and Tkibuli; and how focused these projects are on women, their active involvement and empowerment in the mining industry; further, how strong is the desire of women to participate in such events and after the successful completion of the trainings, if they work in various projects in the mining industry.
British Petroleum Georgia (BP) provided the information to us within 10 days, but IDFI has not received information from the other companies mentioned above. Based on the information provided by BP, it was determined that the company does not work on the extraction of gas and oil, but only on their transportation. BP is implementing a local community development initiative in the villages along the pipelines, which, among many other issues, aims to promote the involvement of women in the implementation of various components of the program. In particular, they are encouraged to participate in the work of rural community organizations, to participate in a grant competition to support the development of small business, to run their own business in the event of a grant, as well as to explore new agricultural technologies. Under each component, women are involved in a variety of teaching formats: training, consultation, and then becoming mentors themselves. It is noteworthy that at least 40% of the population directly benefiting from the BP program should be women, which is one of the evaluation indicators of the program. According to the results achieved within the activities already implemented, this number reaches 45-46%. It seems that most of the companies that did not provide IDFI information do not have a gender equality policy and relevant documents. It is important that all companies in the mining industry have a gender equality policy and action plan based on which they will help ensure women's involvement at the outset, including through community consultation and empowerment of them as labor market participants.
The role of international organizations and initiatives is crucial in the process of advocating for women's rights in the gender equality and mining industry. These include the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). These organizations are actively involved in providing an environment conducive to women's economic empowerment and in identifying what tools can be used to raise women's awareness and their active participation in the industrial sector in terms of policy-making and decision-making.
Based on the above-mentioned, in order to strengthen gender equality in Georgia's mining industry, active cooperation with relevant international organizations and initiatives and introduction of international standards at the national level are necessary; existence of appropriate policies at the central level (eg strategy for women's involvement in the mining industry); implementation of relevant legislative changes (eg to define appropriate social responsibility for companies); raising local community awareness; creating a "good example" by large companies and sharing it with others.
This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.
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