Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Gender and Water Alliance (GWA)

Research on gender dimensions of the impact of gold mining in Ghana

Sabine Luning

MSc Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology: Policy-oriented research internship

The mission of Gender and Water Alliance (GWA)  is to promote women’s and men’s equitable access to and management of safe and adequate water, for domestic supply, sanitation, food security and environmental sustainability. GWA believes that equitable access to and control over water is a basic right for all, as well as a critical factor in promoting poverty eradication and sustainability.

GWA has an office in the Netherlands and is a major partner in the project in Burkina Faso. GWA’s Deputy Director, Margriet Reinders has lived and worked in Burkina Faso and Ghana for in all about 30 years. This research project will be carried out in the region of Tarkwa, in close collaboration with UMAT, the University of Mines and Technology in Tarkwa. We aim to involve Ghanaian students from UMAT in this MA project.

The MA project looks specifically at gender dimensions of the impact of gold mining. The focus will be on a major societal debate currently flaring up in Ghana. Recently, the government has been pressured into ‘declaring war’ against small-scale miners. This policy is called ‘The War on Galamsey’ (Galamsey is the term for ‘illegal’ small-scale miners) (Googling War on Galamsey results in many hits on the internet, see e.g. https://yen.com.gh/95546-war-galamsey-govt-deploy-troops-mining-sites-defense-minister.html). The debate is strongly polarized: Chinese are becoming more prominent economic actors in Ghana, also in small-scale gold mining. Since Chinese upscale technology and investment, many Ghanaians see them as major polluters and destroyers of natural resources, in particular rivers and other water bodies. Moreover, groups of citizens accuse the government of corruption and collaboration with Chinese (some military men have been blamed for protecting these ‘foreigners’).

How does this tense debate on the War on Galamsey affect tangible mining operations and in particular the economic niches of women in gold mining activities? How does it affect the boundary between legal and illegal operations, and between Chinese and local operators? We know that these boundaries are permeable in practice, and want to understand what happens to these linkages between legal/illegal and between foreign and domestic once the pressure of overheated societal debates are on? How does it affect development initiatives that specifically try to improve the position of women in mining, such as the Dutch funded Going Gold project in which Solidaridad and Simavi are involved?

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