Sierra Leone: Empowering Women in Sierra Leone’s Mining Communities

Please note that the following characters and dialogue are fictive and do not reflect a situation that has
really happened. However, figures, events and names cited are correct. And nonetheless, just maybe,
somewhere in Sierra Leone’s East and major mining area, this dialogue between Fatmata (female
activist ♀) and a paramount chief (♂) could have happened…

♪♫♪It’s a Man’s World, It’s a Man’s World♫
♪ [Fatmata signing along. The chief approaches] ♫♪
♂: Hey Fatmata, why are you listening to
that? Do you understand what you sign?
♀: Honourable chief, just look at Kono, our
mining district. It’s a man’s world!
♂: But you, the women are very present in
the sector as well. You do menial work
and provide services like catering etc.
♀: Indeed. We also suffer more from the
consequences of mining, like water
pollution, swamps in the digging holes with
mosquitos that make our children get
malaria. And I don’t even want to mention
those lonely miners from other regions
who impose themselves if they don’t get
the attention they want…
♂: I am sorry about that!
♀: Despite all this, there are hardly any
women in the community structures that
decide about revenues from mining. We
should be there to have a say in how this
money is spent!
♂: We have one woman in the committee
for the DACDF1, those allocations from the
export duty on the artisanal diamonds. As
we have a big number of licenses in our
chiefdom, we also get a big share of that
pot sent from Freetown. It does not come
regularly but is quite substantial.
♀: Yes, but she is the secretary of the
community writing down what others say.
Let’s be honest: Does she speak much
herself during the meetings? And would
people listen to her and value her opinion?
♂: Hm – initially not so much but since that
training with this WOME2 group, it’s getting
better. She makes really clear demands
now and I had a meeting with her and
more women who backed up her two
points. They wanted 10% of our DACDF
allocation to go to projects they choose. I

think it’s a good idea, that way we can
make sure they really benefit and can’t say
later that we picked the wrong projects.
The second point was that they want a
quota of three women on the DACDF
committee in our chiefdom. I don’t have a
problem with that but we do not want to
increase the overall number of people to
keep costs for the committee low. The
men who would have to give up their seats
are not so happy about this idea. We are
not used to women speaking up. The
committee for the DACDF has been held
for quite a long time and until now women
have never claimed a seat at the table. I
will have to talk to them again. – Aren’t
you member of that WOME group as well?
♀: Yes, I am. Unfortunately, I was sick and
could not attend when you met with my
sisters to present you the demands. But I
also participated in that training and
helped identify strong women in the
community who are leadership figures.
WOME worked together with GIZ on the
training series. That’s the Germans. The
trainers were from here though. As you
know, most of my fellow sisters do not
know how to read or write nor speak
English; and those Germans don’t speak
our local language, only a little Krio.
Communication with them was difficult
when they visited in November 2016
during the first training. Still interesting to
hear their opinions and get their reaction
to the problems we encounter here with
the mining. The trainers did a needs
assessment with us, and also with 5 other
chiefdoms, about 60 participants in total.
Oh, I can tell you, there were so many
grievances around these mining activities,
and hence also so many ideas how we
could spend the community proceeds from
it. The trainers helped us to cluster our
needs, formulate them as easily
measurable demands and finally we had
to prioritize and agree on two objectives
for this year. That’s the ones my sisters
presented to you. We also practiced how

to speak in front of people and authorities.
You know, most of our community women
have been afraid of talking to you.
♂: What? But why? I want to make sure
that everyone can have a good live in our
community, and I would like to avoid those
conflicts and claims of corruption that we
had going on in the past. They were really
disturbing the peace in our chiefdom.
♀: Unfortunately not all authorities see our
participation this way. You have been to
those round table discussions that WOME
and GIZ organized three weeks ago with
the chiefdom committees as a follow-up.
All committees of the six chiefdoms where
we had meetings with the authorities had
shown willingness to meet our demands.
However, only two of them have really
done so after a year! The others have to
follow suit; it’s still a long way to go. I hope
WOME and GIZ will continue
accompanying us on that path. At least
awareness for our needs seems to
increase: 240 people in total showed up
for the roundtables. That is a great turn out
and we are really happy about it!
♂: Yes, there seemed to be a lot of
interest in the matter. Maybe, some of the
people heard about it from other sources.
One of my sisters lives in Freetown and
has an abonnement with this women’s
magazine GLOW. She said there was an
article about WOME and the needs assessments
in the first edition of GLOW this
year which she read with great interest. I
thought they only write stuff about fashion
and politicians or business in Freetown.
♀: Oh, yes! GIZ put us in touch with the
editor of this magazine. It was a great way
to show what we do to other parts of the

country. Maybe I should get back to the
editor again and write something about the
CDA3 process. As you know, I am not part
of the chiefdom committee on DACDF but
of this newly established community
development committee. It’s a completely
new structure and process, so people
might want to know more about it.
♂: That’s a good idea. I am not really firm
how this new set-up is supposed to work
myself, even if, as the chief, I am part of it,
of course, and so are the community
representatives like you, and also young
people and farmers. I don’t know if you
remember when I was accused of putting
some of the social payments this big
industrial diamond mining company made,
I think they call it Corporate Social
Responsibility or CSR in short, in my own
pocket. That was in 2012, before the ebola
outbreak and right before the elections.
This MP4 from the opposition party wanted
to challenge me and my support for our
presidential candidate, so he made those
allegations up. It was a really tough time
for me. I have to admit, those former owners
of the big mine seemed dodgy to me
but what am I supposed to do? When they
offer more money for the chiefdom as
compensation for their operations on top
of the surface rent, I won’t refuse it. But I
really had a hard time proving where this
money went as there were no receipts or
proper records at the National Minerals
Agency (NMA) about the transfers, and
also none from the supplier who later built
the roads I thought were useful. I guess
people are very sensitive when it comes to
payments from those multinational companies.
They always think it’d be much more
money than it actually is and they also
have no idea how much the development
projects they want finally cost. That
includes your fellow women’s representatives,
by the way. And then for companies

like Koidu Holdings who export diamonds,
things are even more politically sensitive
due to the role that diamond trade played
in financing our horrible civil war.
♀: I have to admit that the trainings helped
me to get a better and more realistic idea
of the resources available and which
projects would be feasible to implement.
But chief, with all due respect, you must
also understand that people want to
witness the negotiations with big
companies with their own eyes and ears,
even if they usually trust your judgement. I
think Sierra Leone’s Mines and Minerals
Act of 2009 was written in that spirit. It is
only good for all of us that this law made it
mandatory for holders of industrial mining
licenses to negotiate and sign CDAs with
their primary host communities like us.
That way their social payments can more
coherently fund development projects, as
the latter are in line with local development
plans. This new mechanism makes the
CSR payments much more transparent.
You also won’t have problems anymore
with proving what transfers were made as
it all goes to a separate banking account.
It’s just too bad that everything in Sierra
Leone takes so long and we could only set
up the community development committees
and the account in the last two years.
♂: You have to be patient in this country.
At least we have established the structure
now, and even designed a sophisticated
monitoring framework. You must be happy
that there is a fix quota of five women in
the committee that negotiates and
oversees the CDA.
♀: I think donors and companies wanted to
make sure that we are not left out again.
We welcome that very much! I also
participated in meetings to draft a model
CDA that should serve other communities
and companies in the country as
guidance. I think those Germans were
involved in that one as well because they
also work with the Community Affairs
Department of the NMA who oversees the

CDAs from the Government’s side.
However, during that activity, we women
first felt quite useless. We were supposed
to advocate on our sisters’ behalf but did
not know much about industrial mining.
You know, this is really a different world
than artisanal mining, with all the
machinery and long periods of planning
and operations. Moreover, none of us was
well informed about the CDA process
itself; it’s quite complex. So we decided
together with WOME and GIZ to have further
training on those topics for the female
representatives and community leaders.
♂: I still struggle to become familiar with
the CDA myself. What was the training
like? Maybe I should ask the Community
Affairs Department and GIZ to organize
some more training on it for us as well. But
I heard they pay very low DSA5.
F: The story about the low DSA is true but
I am still happy I attended the workshop
they organized in September this year.
They brought in this amazing trainer, Mrs.
Aisha Fofana Ibrahim. She is a member of
the “50-50 Group” in Freetown which fights
for equal political representation and
lecturer for Gender Studies at our best
university, Furah Bay College. I personally
first had doubts about an academic
woman from Freetown teaching us about
abstract concepts like gender roles and
empowerment. And I had already taken
part in the needs assessment and
advocacy training last year. But this one
really went beyond creating an agenda of
demands. The other 20 participants and I
really liked how she used interactive
methods and managed to link abstract
terms to our everyday experiences in our

own communities. She created an atmosphere
where we could comfortably share
our own struggles and challenges as
women and relate them to her
approaches. We also talked about genderbased
violence. Chief, this is really a
problem we have to tackle. – And my
communication skills have improved
further I think. There is still a training
series for us starting in December 2017 on
the CDA process itself, negotiations,
ethics and conflicts of interest. After that, I
will be well equipped to assume my role as
female leader in the scope of the CDA and
have the knowledge and confidence to
influence the outcomes of the process. But
don’t worry. You will see that the whole
community will be better off if we women
participate more in development efforts.
♂: I guess that remains to be seen. It’s still
a lot of new aspects in decision-making
processes in our community that we have
to “digest”. Are we the only chiefdom who
implements the CDA like that?
♀: No, not at all. The model CDA ensures
that the same standards are applied for all
CDAs. There are two more of them
already signed and not sure how many
more are in the pipeline. My aunty who
lives in Imperii Chiefdom where this sand
miner Sierra Rutile/Iluka signed a CDA told
me that they recently had a roundtable
with a local NGO and GIZ to assess the
training needs for female representatives
for their committee, too. So I think they will
run a similar training series there very
soon. Interestingly, the 22 community
women there also met with six members of
the female employees’ group, Sierra Rutile
Women. My aunty did not like most of
them before because they came across as
quite arrogant with their degrees from
abroad but I think this dialogue was the
start of a future collaboration of both
groups. My aunty also mentioned something
about mentorship but I am not sure
what that is about. I imagine it will be more
effective if also someone within the

company pushes for projects that take
women’s needs into greater account.
Unfortunately, Koidu Holdings does not
have such a group among their staff.
♂: Maybe GIZ should suggest it to them!
♀: I am not really sure if that is their role.
Besides, they seem quite busy with
providing some more profound content in
our upcoming workshops and roll-out
similar activities in other mining areas with
CDA at the same time. Someone
mentioned that ReGo is actually a regional
project and they look at what they could do
in Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. And it
seems to me that they spend a lot of time
with meticulous reporting. One of their
employees explained to me that he needs
to know all the details about number of
participants etc. for their progress report
and also one of their project indicators
targeting 40% of all CSR money to go to
gender-sensitive projects. I am not sure
how they will determine when a project is
gender-sensitive and when it isn’t, though.
They also asked us to help them draft a
“gender note” where they reported about
activities and included many more ideas
on gender & mining for their own
colleagues. So maybe people in Germany
will read about us and our chiefdom too!
♂: That sounds like a lot of effort and work
for them. Anyway, I have to go, my wife
should be waiting with dinner. Growing up
in a family with only sisters, no brothers,
believe me, I learnt that you should not get
strong women angry at you, even if you
are the chief.
♀: Thanks, honourable chief, for the chat.
With that confession I see you as an ally
so that my daughters will not sign “it’s a
man’s world” anymore. God bless you!

 

SMART objectives and priorities,
quick wins and follow up
 240+ participants in exchanges
between female activists and
(mostly male) local authorities
 Create trust between stakeholders
involved in local development

New mechanism designed with
female representation (quota)
 Networking with female employees’
representatives of a company
 Growing scope of the activity

Our success factors:
 Reliable and committed partners in
civil society and the private sector
 Networking and mentorship
 Quick wins with potential for
deepening and up-scaling

 

Team: Kathrin Russner, Patric Macua, Halima Tejan-Sie, Sarah Ahlrichs, Salamatu Bangura

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