Women-led community enterprise and development minerals. Meet Natalie Mufalo, glow Zambia
Natalie Mufalo, 48, was born in Zambia and is founder of GLOW. After living many years in the UK and the US, she decided to return to her country of birth six years ago.
"I came back because I felt the need to give back to my country," said Natalie. "I live in a rural setting. You don't have to go far to see poverty and people working with clay. I felt drawn to the women who work with clay, they are marginalised and unrepresented. Women dig clay and make pots to sell with no long-term effect on their livelihoods. However, we can shift this paradigm with the right structures in place. There can be a whole industry developed around clay that can support construction, medicinal and the health industries."
Natalie attended Sharefair in Kenya, a three-day regional event about gender equality in the extractives industries, co-organised by the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme with UN Women's East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO). The event provided training and networking opportunities for 450 representatives from civil society, government, private operators and other groups, primarily from East and Southern Africa. There were also delegates from further afield, including donors, embassies, NGOs and other stakeholders.
"It was an eye opener. I learnt so much in a short space of time and accessed so much information. Up until then, I couldn't see how clay mining and making clay pots could make a difference to development," added Natalie. "I learned about advocacy work. I didn't know that you could talk to governments and others about this work. I got a lot, more than I had imagined. But most importantly, I came away realizing that we needed to strengthen processes that promote economic development of women in developmental mineral mining and thankfully, our new Mining Policy encourages local participation and promotion of the development of the mining industry that is integrated in the local economy. So I knew what I had to do."
Since Sharefair, Natalie has set up a four-person organisation that manages and coordinates the program. By providing training and basic clay mining tools to poor women in remote villages of the Chinkankanta area in southern Zambia. To date, they have supported 26 women clay miners, and they expect to reach up to 150 in a year's time. They aim to support the women miners develop their skills as artesian small scale miners with safer productive methods by introducing them to safer practices, tools and training.
"We want them to be self-reliant and make great products, so they can have an impact on their whole community." Natalie believes that this work can also curve gender violence and environmental degradation and improve the women's money management skills.
"When women get together other issues are raised, like gender violence. People are forced to marry their daughters when they're very young. HIV is also a big issue," said Natalie, explaining that these discussions can help introduce advice and support about other community development issues.
"There's a big concern about environmental issues. It is very painful to look at. They cut down trees for the kiln [oven] and charcoal. If they continue like this, in 20 years' time they will not be able to do this work anymore. We need to tackle this problem now" she added.
"Sharefair gave me a whole lot of energy for this labour of love. For the women we are training clay mining is a way of making a little bit of money out of mining and making clay pots, using a very old art that everyone in the village knows."
"There is so much potential in mineral mining. Women can drive changes in the local economy, if we support them,” adds Natalie. For example, bentonite clay [a type of clay found in Zambia’s southern provinces] is used in the health and beauty industry which can open many opportunities for small women-led enterprises.