The first of its kind in Africa, the Zimbaqua mine in Zimbabwe employs an all-female workforce.
Located near Karoi, a town 200 km northwest of the capital Harare, Zimbaqua is changing the lives of women in the region.
Zimbaqua eases the plight of local women, most of whom are unemployed. “My family suffered a lot before I joined the mine”, said Sylvia Mugova, a minor and mother of five. “My children have been regularly suspended from school due to lack of school fees. My husband does not work. We also take care of my mother-in-law. All I wanted was an opportunity to provide for the needs of my family, and mining gave me that.
Like many other women with little or no formal education, Mugova is one of 35 women employed by Zimbaqua. However, the workforce can be up to 60, with other women taken on as contractors. These are significant figures as only 15% of Zimbabwe’s 7.6 million women work as artisanal and small-scale miners.
Miners excavate the 50 hectare surface for aquamarine deposits. It is the name used for gem-quality specimens of the mineral beryl, a blue-colored stone highly prized by international wholesalers and jewelry designers.
The task is not easy because the women use hammers weighing between 12 and 16 kilograms. They are also trained in the use of chisels, drills and crushers to free the precious stones. Workers in return receive a stable monthly salary of just under $300.
In this male-dominated industry, until recently stones were shipped to Bangkok to be cut and polished. However, the company has started to train women to take on these tasks on site – another exciting initiative.
According to mine manager Rumbidzai Gwinji, Zimbaqua is setting a new standard for mining. “The project uplifts the community by providing solutions for women. The ladies wait no longer and hope that the husband will put a meal on the table. For single mothers, there is no better security than a reliable source of income. They can now take care of the children, send them to school and feed them. They are now financially stable,” she shared.
Zambiqua was founded in 2019 by Patrick Zindoga and Iver Rosenkrantz to create unique opportunities for women. Co-founder Zindoga said the idea was initially pushed back. “People thought the concept was ridiculous. It was the usual argument that women can’t do what men can do,” Zindoga explained. “It was a no-brainer for us, because we know how to set up business models that work. Women are more trustworthy, committed and responsible because they are expected to be pillars of strength. We gave them on-the-job training and the ladies caught up. They do better than we expected and I think they will put the men to shame.
The company currently exports to India and Thailand. She opens a line of jewelry to showcase the aquamarine mined by her all-female workers.
“We are excited to start selling and exporting finished products. We hope to grow and create sustainable opportunities for more women in the country,” concludes Zindoga.