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Gender and Mining in Kenya: The Case of Mukibira Mines in Vihiga District

Maurice Amutabi, Mary Lutta-Mukhebi


This essay examines the role of women in mining in Kenya compared to that of men. It utilizes the Mukibira mines in Vihiga district to demonstrate how women have been at the center of mining activities. As well, it reports on the various complex activities that were discovered around these mines during our field research. It interrogates these activities vis-a-vis women and evaluates their impact on their life and society around them. It also looks at the benefits or advantages that women have acquired from these mines and it discusses the dangers and problems that women face in the mines, especially the dangers to which they are exposed. The activities of women in mining have not been thoroughly researched and documented in Kenya. Their contribution is often blanketed together with that of men and therefore not known. Even where statistics are available, the focus is often on direct role and not support roles that women play in the production process, services in homes of miners, in supply of commodities and other auxiliary services like marketing to the mining industry in Kenya. The essay illuminates many of these gray areas that have been ignored. It also compares the role of women and men in mining activities in Kenya. It is hoped that other similar studies will follow in other mining areas like Macalder in South Nyanza, West Pokot in Northern Kenya, Kerio Valley in the Rift Valley, Kariandus near Nakuru, and Kibongwa near Kisumu among other mining sites. It is our contention that Mukibira mines represents a case study of a very rich and representative population that demonstrates the role of women in a dynamic activity such as mining. It examines gold panning and other small-scale mining activities at Mukibira. It is estimated that gold panning produces about five tons of gold in a year from rivers in Kenya and Mukibira is one of the leading sites. Mukibira has an estimated 2,000 (two thousand) panners and majority of them are women and children. There are about 500 pit diggers mostly men. About 10,000 people depend on the proceeds of these mines either directly or indirectly to subsist. In our view, this is a very significant segment of Kenya’s economic sector; and hence constitutes our rationale of the study.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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