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The Gender Implications of Transformations in the Copper Value Chain: A Case Study of the Zambian Copperbelt


The Gender Implications of Transformations in the Copper Value Chain: A Case Study of the Zambian Copperbelt
Copper mining occupies a central place in the Copperbelt of Zambia, permeating every aspect of life—the social, economic and political. Any major change in the copper value chain and in the operation of the copper mining companies located in the province can thus affect the Copperbelt community in a significant way, impacting men and women differently. This report provides a synopsis of the results of two months of fieldwork conducted in the Copperbelt in the context of the project Valueworks: Effects of Financialization Along the Copper Value Chain. It examines the local-level gender implications of operational and financial transformations in the copper value chain, such as increased financialization at extraction, commodities trading or manufacture. According to informants’ stories, spaces in which mining has created specific gendered dynamics include hiring practices, workforce discrimination, the perceived gendered dangers of underground work, and exposure to environmental contaminants. Although it was difficult to establish a clear nexus between financialization and gender dynamics at the local level, the research shows that following privatization of mining companies and increased financialization of the copper value chain, mining companies’ business operations, management and decisions made in response to the volatility of copper prices in the commodities markets tend to favour profit over welfare of workers. Casualization of labour, emphasis on profit maximization over other societal and environmental goals, employees’ increased reliance on debt as a result of job insecurity, and, to some extent, erosion of gender stereotypes and gendered division of labour are some of the ways that the impacts of transformations such as increased financialization play out in local lifeworlds in the Copperbelt in Zambia.

Hanna Haile is a lawyer, postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill University, Canada, and a gender specialist with the World Bank Group. Her research interests lie in the fields of international human rights, sustainability, gender and human migration. She holds a J.S.D. and an LL.M. from Cornell University and an LL.B. from the University of Asmara in Eritrea.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 29 Oct 2020
    ISBN: 978-92-9085-116-5
    From: UNRISD