Women of the mines: apartheid and post-apartheid lived realities of South African women

Asanda Benya


Drawing from the apartheid and post-apartheid context this paper demonstrates how the poverty in the mines of South Africa, which disproportionally affects women, is a deliberate construction. The paper mainly draws from women who have links with and work in the mines. The first section deals with the historical exclusion of women from mining. I link this exclusion to the migrant labour system and incredibly low wages paid to husbands who were the preferred cheap labour in the mines. I not only locate this in history, but I also draw extensively from the current experiences of women who work in the mines. I argue that not only was apartheid at the heart of the construction of mining women’s poverty, but even in post-apartheid South African women continue to suffer the brunt of the laws that are disguised as having their best interest at heart when in fact women in the mines are prejudiced by these laws. The data I use was collected in several research phases from 2008 until 2015. For almost eleven months, between 2011 and 2012, I worked and lived in the mines. To get at the in-depth and everyday practices I used participant observation, life histories, formal interviews, focus group discussions and relied on day-to-day conversations.


South Africa; women in the mines; apartheid; post-apartheid; gender inequality; gender discrimination; women’s poverty; South African mining world

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/SDD-23957

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