Resource-ful Empowerment: Elevating Women’s Voices for Human and Environmental Protection in Congolese Small-Scale Mining

Grantee: Action to Protect Women and Abandoned Children
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Action to Protect Women and Abandoned Children (ASEFA) partnered with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), Initiative des Femmes Entrepreneures pour le Développement Durable (IFEDD), and Solidarité des Femmes pour le Développement Intégré (SOFEDI) to create and implement a new training called Resource-ful Empowerment: Elevating Women’s Voices for Human and Environmental Protection in Congolese Small-Scale Mining.

Summary of impact


Project beneficiaries


People trained on GBV prevention


Of participants are more aware of GBV through the project

Situational background

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), artisanal and small-scale mining provides revenue to 16 percent of the population. More than two million people work in this sector, half of whom are women. While mining offers economic opportunities to workers, there is also a great risk of exploitation and abuse, particularly for women. According to a study undertaken by HHI and the World Bank, four in ten women stated that they were forced to trade sex for access to work or basic goods in mining towns. Thirty percent of women stated that they had been harassed by men in the mines, and only one out of seven women had discussed this harassment with others.

Project approach

The project created, implemented, and evaluated two versions of the newly developed evidence-based, scalable curricula. Each version aimed to reduce sexual harassment and abuse and promote environmental best practices in mining towns in the DRC. The core curriculum focuses on human rights and Congolese law, women’s protection, gender norms, and measures for mitigating mining’s environmental impact, particularly erosion and landslides. The interconnectedness curriculum covers the same topics, but also includes additional emphasis on the links between people in mining towns and the links between people and the environment. The project theorized that the additional interconnectedness module may help improve both environmental and human outcomes. Both curricula utilized context-appropriate pictures to allow women and men with varying levels of literacy to easily understand its messages.

Using an A/B testing methodology, the training curricula were randomly assigned to mining communities and implemented over a one-year period. Each community participated in four training sessions, and training “champions” to train other members of their community on women’s protection and safe mining practices. The project conducted a baseline and endline assessment to evaluate and compare the impact and effectiveness of the curricula.

Notable results

Over 22 months, 720 women and men miners located in nine communities in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema completed the training. Facilitators used a combination of lecture, art-based learning, participatory approaches, and roleplay to discuss gender norms, GBV, mining code, and Congolese law. 

A key component of this project was to test the difference between two different curricula to determine which was the most effective at changing attitudes. Both curricula improved the participants’ knowledge of occupational safety and how to protect the environment. Participants in both versions of the curricula reported a 100 percent increase in knowledge of safe mining practices, such as reinforcement of mining tunnels and land recovery post-mining. As a result of the training, 75 percent of male participants and 66 percent of women participants were more aware of the mining code. 

The communities who received the interconnectedness curriculum also reported a 34 percent increase in feeling strongly connected to the environment and a desire to expand the use of safe mining practices. The interconnectedness curriculum was more effective at reducing sexual harassment and sexual coercion. The number of women who reported experiencing sexual coercion in mining towns within the last year was reduced by half, and the number of women who reported experiencing sexual coercion in the last month was reduced from 15 percent to five percent. 

During a monitoring visit to Kailo, a mining town in Maniema province, ASEFA’s program director heard from women who escaped the practice of exchanging sex in return for job opportunities at mining sites, known locally as the Mavula system. Some of these women stated that ASEFA’s work supported them in this process by not only increasing their awareness of their rights, but also generating a form of community awareness that made it possible for them to find another job through non-coercive means.