Women from five communities and six mine sites in Democratic Republic of Congo came together this past week to establish a new women’s rights association, the Network for the Empowerment of Women in Mining Communities (REAFECOM).

REAFECOM is the first association of women artisanal miners in DRC’s northeastern Ituri Province.

62 women have founded the association which aims to represent their interests as women artisanal miners, with a goal of promoting women’s rights in their communities. The group aims to improve living conditions for women, promote their right to and increase access to social services, and build solidarity.

Importantly, in a sector where women face many challenges, group aims to ensure their participation in decision-making and leadership positions. As part of their efforts to end gender-based violence, the group will also begin documenting cases of sexual violence in the communities and working with local organizations to ensure survivors access needed services.

IMPACT began working with the mining communities in Ituri Province over two years ago to support the integration of gender equality in natural resources management. The creation of RAEFECOM comes on the heels of our work to build awareness through the Just Gold project on human and women’s rights, along with a series of trainings to develop women’s leadership and economic participation.

Supporting efforts to strengthen women’s leadership—including identifying and supporting the creation of alliances and networks for women working in artisanal and small-scale mining—was a key recommendation that came out of our three-year research project studying the role of women in the artisanal mining sector and the challenges and opportunities for their empowerment.

In collaboration with local partners CVAP and SOFEPADI, we are supporting the establishment of this association’s efforts to empower women in mining communities and reduce the barriers that limit their full participation in artisanal mining.

Read the full media release here (only available in French).

Photo: Zuzia Danielski/IMPACT

Women from artisanal mining communities participate in a women’s rights and leadership training in Mambasa, Ituri Province in May 2017.