In Africa, Women Risk Health and Safety to Find Gold

Bantako, a small Senegalese village, discovered gold in 2008. Many women travel from neighboring countries to work there, but often find themselves victims of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.

The Bantako mine stretches over hundreds of meters. Blinding white piles of stones contrast with lines of black holes, dug up to 50 meters deep.

Kedougou, which borders Mali and Guinea, has become a major destination for the gold rush happening in west Africa. This has attracted business to the area - but also a fair share of drug and human trafficking. "Women are very vulnerable in and around the mines," explained Aliou Bakhoum, manager for the non-governmental organisation La Lumiere.

"Gender-based violence is present and there is also the sexual exploitation of girls, especially from foreign countries such as Nigeria." Bakhoum pointed out that women are relegated to low-scale labour work alone, which prevents them from climbing the traditional hierarchy in the mines.

Women-led organizations are trying to fight for their economic empowerment, and the government too is trying to implement solutions. But men dominate politics as well as the mines - making it difficult for the situation to change, Bakhoum added.

Sieving rocks in the hope of finding hidden gold.

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