Discrimination against indigenous people in resource-rich communities is a serious issue. These communities rely on non-renewable extractive activities such as mining, forestry, and oil and gas operations for their livelihoods. Discrimination can take many forms, including unequal access to services, hiring discrimination, and a lack of recognition for their land ownership.
Recently, discrimination against women in extractive communities has increased. Women in these communities face gender-based challenges related to their access to resources, decision-making power, and safety. Displacement of these communities due to extractive activities exacerbates this discrimination. Women in extractive communities often have limited access to resources, education, and healthcare. They are primary caregivers but are excluded from decision-making processes and leadership positions.
Global Witness recently reported that women in extractive communities face discrimination and marginalization due to limited access to resources, decision-making power, and services. Only 2.3% of women in these communities have representation in local government decision-making, and only 10% have land rights. Additionally, only 1 in 10 women have access to finance and banking services, and women are more likely to experience gender-based violence. Lack of access to education and technical skills training further limits their economic opportunities.
Displacement due to extractive activities worsens the situation for women, as they are often the last to receive information and among the first to be displaced. This increases their vulnerability to exploitation and discrimination. It is crucial to combat discrimination against women in extractive communities. This includes ensuring their access to resources, decision-making power, education, and leadership positions. It is also important to prevent the disproportionate effects of displacement and ensure that women receive timely information about extractive activities.
In addition to issues of discrimination faced by these women, they bear the brunt of environmental degradation and health hazards caused by the extractive activities of industries operating in their communities. It is common for them to experience scarcity of clean water and pollution, and since these women are often responsible for collecting and managing water for their households, they are most vulnerable to waterborne diseases as well as other health issues.
Also, being the primary caregivers for children, discrimination and poor health experienced by the mothers are compounded on the children as they are less capable of providing them with the optimal care they require. Children are forced to drop out of school due to their compromised health or that of their mothers and to limit their exposure to environmental hazards.
What’s more, because extractive activities often require the use of land and resources that would have otherwise been utilised by people indigenous to these communities, traditional livelihoods such as farming, fishing, and hunting is lost, and those who rely on these are sources of income find themselves in exceeding financial constraints. Healthcare is expensive, and their overall quality of life becomes very deplorable. At the end of the day, their husbands as well take out their frustrations on these women resulting in many cases of domestic violence and abuse.
The plight of women in extractive communities cannot continue to be ignored. It is an issue with far-reaching impacts on their livelihoods, well-being, and economic opportunities. It is of exceeding importance that steps are taken to address the root cause of these issues, and ensure women are empowered, educated, given access to resources, and represented in decision-making within these communities. This would ensure that the women are protected and respected and can live adignified life with the opportunity to participate fully in their communities and economies.