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Community-based research identifying barriers to women’s economic participation in Ghana's artisanal and small scale gold mining sector

pledged of$10,000 goal
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Project Description


support economic inclusion and sustainability in Ghana


In 2019, Ghana surpassed South Africa, as the number one gold producer on the African continent. Foreign multi-national companies own the vast majority of Ghana’s gold wealth amounting to a disturbing ecological imperialism.  The foreign monopoly of Ghana's natural resources has collateral consequences of land appropriation, livelihood deprivation and environmental degradation.  Females in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) are desperate to share in the earth’s profits; they dig at the very bottom of the international supply chain. Constrained systemically and culturally, female miners experience gross disparity in the extractive sector resulting in economic stagnation. Driven by hand to mouth sustenance for their families, these women spend decades in the trenches of ruble and mud searching for gold dust.  Gender injustice and imbalance within the ASGM exacerbates the feminization of poverty and prevents women from meaningful economic participation and independence.

Female artisanal and small scale gold miners largely work within galamsey or illegal mining. Operating in the shadows, their individual stories and collective narrative are unknown and undervalued.  Furthermore, there is a paucity of data chronicling the specific impacts and barriers experienced by female ASGM workers in direct relation to labour market exclusion and economic disempowerment.


Unearthing Her Crown will give voice to the harsh and gendered reality of women surviving on the dust of Ghana’s multi-billion dollar extractive industry through the following actions:

  • Collect and analyze empirical data for a baseline study revealing women’s unique challenges within the extractive sector.
  • Present a stunning visual narrative illustrative of the human and social toll of females in ASGM.
  • Identify gaps in the regulatory system for short and long-term legal and social recommendations that reach from marginalized catchment communities to supply chain accountability.
  • Foster the holistic inclusion of women in ASGM, contributing to the redistribution of social and financial wealth in remote communities of Amansie West, Obuasi, Kenyasi, and Bolgatanga.
METHODOLOGY  skip to the end for a parenthetical cliff note...because you know you want to!

Research will take an interdisciplinary quantitative and qualitative approach to ensure constructivist observations are supported by statistical analysis. The identified areas of Amansie West, Obuasi, Kenyasi, and Bolgatanga are categorically different. Each area’s dynamic geography and geology dictates its mining practices.  Workshops will be held in each area to engage women individually and collectively through surveys and round table discussions. Workshops will be grounded in the revaluation of women in their community and family systems, and how these relationships collaterally influence the prosperity of the community as a whole. Notably, the workshops will embolden women with rights-based agency and voice.  An estimated sample of 80 surveys will be completed by women in the gold mining supply chain. Numerical data will offer descriptive and situational impacts, while suggesting a baseline for comparative international analysis. Interviews with stakeholders and key informants including traditional authorities, mining company executives, community advocates, Ministry members, legal officers, and allied NGO’s will offer social and historical nexus. Field walks and direct observations will supplement evidence. To deduce a cause and effect, a legal analysis of current legislation and governance will be conducted, including mineral and mining laws, foreign and indigenous ownership requirement restrictions, forestation and waterways, labour laws, and Ghanaian constitutional rights.

Women from each mining community will be chosen for a day in the life documentary narrative through still photography.  Using subject-forward and graphic composition techniques, the women will be shot at work, in their homes, and with their families.  A series of staged portraits will root each narrative, humanizing the individual.

(cliff notes: surveys, interviews, visual storytelling)


Melani Mennella, Human Rights Research Fellow, The Legal Resources Centre (Ghana)

Melani Mennella earned her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019 where she was a Public Interest Fellow working with the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, Botswana Edition.  Melani has been a dedicated human rights defender for over fifteen years, including work in food security, livelihoods, and equitable social development.  She honed analytical policy skills and legislative reform at the Vera Institute for Justice and the Council of the District of Columbia Ward 5.  She is the proud recipient of the Barack Obama Award for Service for her commitment to the Downtown Women’s Center of Los Angeles and the Haitian American Caucus in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti.  Melani is committed to the empowerment of the female identity and agency in fragile contexts. She awaits in absentia oath for the District of Columbia Bar.

Mariusz Smiejek, Freelance Documentarian Photographer (Poland, UK)

Mariusz Smiejek is an award winning freelance international photographer with two decades of experience specializing in the raw narrative of human and social conditions. Mariusz’s documentary work explores post conflict communities, refugee and asylum seekers, child slavery, street children, human trafficking, victimized women, dangerous livelihoods, corruption and systemic abuse. Harnessing a total immersion approach, Mariusz’s eye becomes an unadulterated and impartial window between the subject and the audience. He possesses the ability to navigate fragile and volatile contexts, and infrastructures with ease, including informal migrant encampments, remote West African villages, and urban uprisings. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, The British Journal of Photography, Time Magazine, BBC, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Un Frame, The Edge of Humanity, amongst others.








The Campaign FAQs



What's so special about this Project?

By combining a raw visual narrative with community-based research, this Project truly raises the voice of women and compels an earnest and empathetic review of policies and institutions, which promote social and economic inclusion.  Furthermore, qualitative and quantitative research projects can be overly academic and stiff; the authors and the audience are removed from the human experience.

How will the Project use my donation?

Successful field visits require interstate air and ground transportation, lodging, food, security, and translation.  Workshops and roundtables require venues, administrative and operational fees.  No member of the Team is getting paid to produce this report and visual narrative.  The budget for this Project is far beneath industry standard and is based on humility, not comfort.  This is a call to action, not a paycheck.  Any funds collected beyond the goal amount will be donated directly to the socio-economic stability of female miners in Obuasi, Amansie West, Kenyasi and Bolgatanga.

What is the estimated length of the Project?

Field visits, data collection, analysis and visual production have been ongoing since March 2020, albeit at a slow flexible pandemic rate.  The research is expected to culminate within the year.

How will the Project mitigate COVID-19 restrictions and measures?

Team members and participants will be encouraged to adhere to all COVID-19 protocols.  Workshops will provide sanitation stations upon entry and will be structured by social distancing guidelines.  Team members are tested regularly before rural travel.

Is this Project affiliated with the U.S. State Department?

No, this Project is not affiliated with the U.S. State Department or any of its subsidiary development agencies.  It should be noted the United States owns Newmont Gold, one of Ghana's largest gold mining companies. This Project is independently funded and based on the ethos of the Team members.  Its findings will be unadulterated. This Project has garnered the avid support of local NGOs advocating for gender justice, human rights, accountability, and sustainability in the gold mining sector.  

So you have an academic report propped up with fancy what?

The Project will culminate in a high-level, multi-sector stakeholder presentation in Ghana. The report will be submitted to the Ghana Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Ministry of Justice, the Minerals Commission (gender desk), Ghana Chamber of Mines, the National Coalition on Mining and the Australian High Commission.  It will be solicited to a variety of law, mining, and African social science journals for publications, as well as, human rights advocacy organizations such as Open Society Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and ABANTU for Development. The Legal Resources Centre of Ghana, Women in Mining Ghana and National Small Scale Miners Association will assist in Project visibility.  The Project will capitalize on social media momentum in the United States, Europe, and Ghana.  Importantly, this Project brings rural Ghanaian women out of the shadows and into the light of prosperity.

How will supporters access the final product?

The final report will be an open data source and will be made available prior to respective publishing.  The accompanying visual storytelling and portrait series will be available on exhibit and in publication.

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Blessings and gratitude to all the change makers, shape shifters and light reflectors!

Marcus Walton
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Susan Marcus
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Sylvie St Pierre
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Just Because I Care

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