In my last year of high school, it was mandatory to fill out documents indicating the career opportunities one was interested in pursuing post-secondary education. We had a few days to fill them out and so began another serious thought process on what exactly I want to do in university.
As part of my evening routine involved visiting the school library, it was no surprise that I got there in time to be among the first to go through the local newspaper. As I looked through the paper, I saw an advertisement about the next month’s Forbes Woman Africa edition, and on the cover page was Daphne Mashile – Nkosi, a South African manganese tycoon dubbed “The Mining Iron Lady” and that title struck a cord with my younger feminist self.
The idea that a woman could be at the forefront of Mining, an industry I was well aware of to be male dominated posed a challenge to me. “Could this be it?” I found myself wondering. And so, when the time was up, Mining Engineering was one of the options I put down, and a year later, I was at the freshman class of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya, pursuing a Bachelors in Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering.
As luck would have it, during my school-mandated attachment programs, I got the chance to volunteer to work with artisanal and small-scale miners. The first was at Taita Taveta where I spent six weeks camping with gemstone miners and the second was at Migori where I was immersed in the activities of gold miners for seven weeks.
My time with these mining communities inspired me to pursue opportunities to continue with the work that I saw necessary in improving the plight of miners, and so when Makal agreed to sponsor my internship at The Impact Facility, it felt like a homecoming. This is because through my work at The Impact Facility, I will be able to help facilitate economic and environmental empowerment to artisanal and small-scale mining communities in Kenya.
Part of my work will include improving the technical capacity of these communities through equipment provision that will ultimately scale up production, improving operational health and safety of their practices, and eventually, localized value addition of their products.
As mercury use is still quite rampant in the mining sector, part of my work will also include the introduction of retorts for better management of mercury-use, that will help steer the change towards mercury reduction and its final elimination in accordance with the minamata convention vision, building on the work started in 2020 by my colleague Cyrus, also in partnership with Makal.
As a young woman, the support of Makal is vital to my career development in the mining space. Believing that my voice is important instills in me the confidence I need to tackle the challenges the industry faces. It is important that the women that will come after me also see a reflection of themselves in me, just as I identify with the resilience of the women that came before me in their unwillingness to cave in to the pressure of working in an industry dominated by men. Milbrey Wallin McLaughlin says it best, “You can’t be what you can’t see”.