Publication Date

September 2007


[Excerpt] Research carried out by the International Labour Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO–IPEC) between April and December 2006 has produced evidence that girls as well as boys are involved in hazardous work in the small-scale mining industry.

Due to the fact that boys are statistically more likely to be involved in hazardous child labour than girls, 1 the appalling work of girls is often overlooked. In the small-scale mining industry especially, little is understood about the roles and activities of girls and the effect that this has on their lives and livelihoods. Not much is known of the dynamics that brought them into this type of employment and consequently what could lead them out of it. The issue of girl child labour in mining is largely unknown, it is often not fully recognized by the law, and missed by the intervention services and the media.

New evidence presented in this paper challenges the general understanding of gender roles in small-scale mining communities. It forces us to acknowledge a more intricate reality for boys and girls as the evidence shows that the involvement of girl child labour in mining is much more frequent and far-reaching than was previously recognized. The assumption that girls are only involved in prostitution and domestic work is incorrect; girls are involved in tasks related to the extraction, transportation and processing stages of mining as well as in other mining-related jobs such as selling food and supplies to the miners.

The gender balance appears to be shifting. Girls are involved in more and more hazardous occupations deeper into the interiors of the mine, but at the same time they are also upheld to their traditional female responsibilities in the home. The result is that girls in mining communities are forced to juggle their domestic tasks with other paid or non-paid work. Often, girls are performing just as hazardous tasks as boys, working longer hours, with a greater workload and often have a lesser chance of schooling, withdrawal or rehabilitation.