The Kagem emerald mine in Lufwanyama has hired four Zambian women as heavy equipment truck drivers, making them the first women to fill this traditionally male-dominated position there.
The move is the most recent change at the mine that produces the most emeralds globally. The mine takes pleasure in creating responsibly sourced gemstones in line with its concept of openness, legitimacy, and integrity.
“We welcome our newest recruits to the mine and are confident they will perform well as part of our team of hard-working operatives who are dedicated to unlocking Zambia’s mineral wealth for the benefit of the nation,” said CV Suresh, Managing Director for Zambia of Gemfields, which owns 75% of Kagem in partnership with the Zambian government through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
“This is indeed a great moment, as this is the first time in the entire history of Kagem that women will be operating heavy earth moving machinery,” Mr Suresh added as he congratulated them.
Commenting on the milestone, Kagem General Manager, Mr Sanjeev Kumar, said:
“This is a ground-breaking achievement for Kagem and the gemstone industry as a whole. We have always believed everyone should be given an opportunity to work in mining regardless of gender, and by employing female heavy equipment operators, we hope this new initiative will help to break down the barriers that women often face in the industry and pave the way for more women to pursue careers in mining.”
Idah Lungu, Agness Kunda, Betty Kafwilo, and Beatrice Tamanga, according to Mr. Kumar, completed all recruitment requirements and were prepared to assume the role of Articulated Dump Truck (ADT) operators, operating some of the mine’s largest and most potent machinery.
“The women are already making a positive impact on the team and are quickly learning the ropes. We are excited to have them be a part of Kagem and contribute to the mine’s success,” he added.
“This sends a clear message that Kagem is committed to being a gemstone industry leader not only in responsible mining but also in promoting diversity. The mine strives to promote gender equality in our operations such that even through our recruitment process, females are encouraged to apply because if they are given access to the right training, they are equal candidates.”
While praising the emerald mine for giving her the chance to pursue her ideal career path, Ms. Kafwilo revealed that prior to being hired by Kagem, she had trouble finding employment.
“I always wanted to be a heavy equipment operator and I applied for training in the field. However, after completing my studies, I could not find a job because most mining companies I applied to do not pick females as they do not have adequate facilities, but all that turned around for me when I saw a job advert by Kagem encouraging women to apply as dump truck operators,” she said.
Ms. Kafwilo said she is finally pursuing her passion and that she aspires to advance through the ranks to someday work as a safety officer or an ADT instructor for the mine.
Ms. Lungu also stated her optimism that the progressive action will create new chances for women to fill more positions in industries that are normally dominated by men.
“I have always believed whatever a man can do, a woman can too and as I take on this role, I hope to be a role model for other women who’d like to take up similar positions,” she said.
The decision represents both a huge accomplishment for Kagem and for gender equality in the mining sector, where women have historically been underrepresented.