The Olifants River estuary on the West Coast near Lutzville. (Photo: John Yeld)

Tipping the social learning scale in favour of sustainable land justice for women who are land dispossessed and those from mining towns

This project sought to explore, enhance and transform the social learning of women in rural and landless contexts who were engaged in agroecology and fishing as a livelihood but faced barriers of hostile industrial companies and an unfriendly learning atmosphere. It investigated the shift in the impact of technology that women experience in mining towns and the resulting socio-environmental impact on their lives. The research inquires how women have engaged and responded to these barriers and used their agency to enhance and build the quality of their lives and create sustainable futures through arts and crafts as well as other income-generation initiatives. 

Women who attended the training were from rural and farming communities that include coastal and land-locked communities.

The researchers uncovered the following: 

  • Poverty and unemployment levels are between 40 and 60 percent in  these communities as the employment opportunities are mostly geared toward men and many of the jobs are on the high-skill end.
  • Those who cannot access job opportunities are dependent on government social support grants such as child support, disability grants, and pensions for the elderly.
  • Young women often are not able to study further due to a lack of bursaries and they must find a livelihood on the West Coast.

There are multiple impacts of mining on women in landlocked and coastal communities including social, political, economic, spiritual, and environmental impacts. The study shows women’s voices are largely excluded from decision-making processes that affect their livelihoods and quality of life. This includes a lack of access to information and adequate benefit from the social labour plans of existing mining. The consultation processes around prospective mining applications are inadequate and women do not feel well-prepared to engage in public participation meetings which are poorly set up and often poorly advertised and biased toward mine bosses. 

Women who live in mining communities are blocked from opportunities.  The project supported the building of local layers of rural young women community researchers enabled to expand their life chances.

Reflections and Outcome:


The implementation of a feminist participatory action methodology for this co-created project guided and strengthened existing connections and relationships among women from respective communities as they critically discussed their struggles because of corporate mining interests and the impacts thereof on their livelihoods. This research project hoped to strengthen relationships through its commitment to implement aspects of healing, capacity mobilisation, transformation aspects, and educational impacts for all participating communities throughout the research process.

Our project was implemented within a very complex existing web of relations, organisational initiatives and networks, and customary practices. We realised early that it was important to integrate and connect positively and affirmatively to cultural expressions and habits and show respect to the people whom we wanted to co-create knowledge with. The research process had to be integrated within these existing processes and social relations, while at the very same time harnessing the transformative instincts and aspirations that the people have in their local settings. The Fisher folk women’s group in Doring Bay and the women’s forum in Hondeklip Bay had a very specific and close-knitted culture of working and getting together and it was needed to connect friendly to their context so as not to be imposing with our process. In Port Nolloth, women felt more isolated and experienced exclusion and inequality in a very stark way to the point where they were instructed in cooperative meetings of fisherfolk that they could only be in meetings, but not participate meaningfully. We had to carefully manage party political dynamics so that it does not negatively influence the research process. For example, changing the way that we worked with one of the community leaders that we wanted to foreground as an environmental activist and relegated her to a less influential role in the project, while still drawing on her rich knowledge of the environmental context without giving space to influence processes.

Connections and relationships were also strengthened when women expressed their concerns about power dynamics (e.g., community men, government officials, mining companies) and the impacts on their livelihoods. For example, in Hondeklip Bay, in the Northern Cape, it came to our attention that mining companies are filled with empty promises. They promised to create businesses for young people, build community facilities, and commit to development that will better the livelihoods of people. However, these very mining companies are full of empty promises and are conducting mining consultation meetings to make decisions to mine the area. The women are concerned about the further structural violence and impacts that mining will have on their community and in their lives.

What this meant for the project, is that researchers needed to address the direct concerns of the women and provided them with information and guidance as requested in their training sessions.


There are multiple impacts of mining on women in landlocked and coastal communities including social. political, economic, spiritual, and environmental impact. The study shows women’s voices are largely excluded from decision-making processes that affect their livelihoods and quality of life. This includes a lack of access to information and adequate benefit from the social labour plans of existing mining. The consultation processes around prospective mining applications are inadequate and women do not feel well-prepared to engage in public participation meetings which are poorly set up and often poorly advertised and biased toward mine bosses. Women who live in mining communities are blocked from opportunities.  The project supported the building of a local layer of rural young and adult women community researchers enabled to expand their life chances.


More information about the project

Key Themes:
Climate Action
Decolonising Research and Addressing Inequalities
Sustainable Livelihoods
Location: south africa
Principal Investigator: Vainola Makan
Co-Investigators: Wendy Pekeur, Shanel Johannes, (M and E) Community Researchers: Maryna Booysen, Davine Cloete, Lena Lazarus, Deborah De Wee,
Host Organisation: 1000 Women Trust
Partners: Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement and Sisterhood Movement
Duration: 17 months