Kagem: Proudly changing gender stereotypes in mining

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Kagem 11 Female Truck Operators

The once unconventional sight of a woman skilfully operating heavy-duty machinery at a mine is now becoming commonplace at Kagem Mining. Kagem is striving towards increased diversity and inclusion within its workforce, changing gender stereotypes in mining.

2022 marked a significant milestone in Kagem’s history when the emerald mine incorporated four female heavy equipment operators into its workforce. The mine has continued its progressive trajectory as it has welcomed a further 11 female operators, with a total of 14 now in this role alone.

Kagem General Manager, Adriaan Prinsloo stated: “Kagem aims to not only promote gender equality, but also to demonstrate our commitment to striving to provide equal opportunities for all. Having more women as heavy machinery operators further diversifies our workforce and brings a fresh perspective to our operations.”

Getting behind the wheel

Joyce, 35, recently took on the role of an articulated dump truck (ADT) operator at the Kagem emerald mine site in Lufwanyama. Her journey embodies the essence of empowerment and opportunity. This is because despite Joyce’s foray into mining beginning seven years ago, it is only now that she has been able to fulfil a lifelong dream of steering the colossal machines.

“From my experience, most companies were wary of a woman wanting to work as an ADT operator. This led to the lack of opportunities for me, and negatively affected my ability to fend for my big family,” she shared.

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Tina has been a trained ADT operator since 2015.

“Heavy machines have fascinated me ever since I was little and after graduating from high school, I took a course to learn how to operate them. To my surprise, there were little to no opportunities for me to prove my skills,” Tina explained.

The long wait and determination to stick to what she believed in paid off when she was employed by Kagem and given the opportunity to operate an ADT machine. Her eyes are now set on advancing her career and learning skills to operate other heavy-duty machinery.

A call for more opportunities

As more women venture into non-traditional careers within the mining industry, the need for female-centric training and access to resources becomes increasingly evident.

Esther, a 32-year-old excavator operator at Kagem, emphasised the importance of such resources in encouraging more women to pursue their career path.

Drawing from her personal journey as the only female student in her excavator operating class, Esther succeeded in turning the scepticism she faced at the time, into a driving force towards achieving her goals through sheer grit and determination.

Esther said, “I believe there are many women who are willing to take this path, but may not necessarily have the resources or the support they need to take that leap of faith.”

As these women guide their careers with tenacity, they serve as an example for others on how to overcome obstacles, nurture aspirations, and explore and navigate uncharted territories.

Training as a key resolve to pursuing quality

At the heart of Kagem’s commitment to staff empowerment lies comprehensive training.

Constance aged 34, is another remarkable woman operating one of Kagem’s ADTs who sees a brighter future for women in mining provided that they have access to resources to expand their knowledge of the industry.

“My family has a history of working in the mining industry and that partly fuelled my desire to join this field. Despite the initial training I received to capitalise on my passion, I found that there was more to operating an ADT. Upon joining Kagem, I received training that opened my eyes to the vast pool of knowledge I was lacking. The training helped me adapt into my new role,” she explained.

Kagem GM, Adriaan Prinsloo added, “Our focus is to provide training to familiarise new staff with the equipment and ensure that they are confident in their abilities behind the wheel.”

Kagem Managing Director, CV Suresh affirmed that “Kagem continues to strive towards supporting the growth of the mining industry in Zambia, and aims to empower more women to join its team across various departments”. CV Suresh added “The mine is simultaneously seeking to create more inclusive opportunities while inspiring future industry players and leaders to bring innovation, diversity and a different perspective to drive the sector forward”.

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