Women face hell in stone mining

Women in the Western Area Rural District along the Freetown Peninsula are becoming too obvious and facing hell in stone mining for daily survival.

By Isaac Kamara

A survey undertaken by this medium reveals unlike in previous years when women are sparse in stone mining, many now, because of lack, are being forced to take on the hard laborious trade much to their peril.

A woman at Bonga Wharf community that identified herself as Adama Fullah said she joined in the trade two years ago.
“I’m a widow with three children, the brother of my late husband who has been helping me is now exhausted due to the high cost of living,” she said, stating that had she engaged in the trade, her children would have, probably, starved to death.

Adama lamented how hard and tedious the work is and could not as men do it because as a woman, she lacks the strength.

“It takes a lot of effort and struggle to get a 50kg bag of broken stones that I would sell every three days to keep my home going,” she lamented.

The Chairman of Bonga Wharf stone miners, Abdul Scott, said that the rate at which women are infiltrating the trade is unimaginable and very worrying.

“They are unable to do the hardest work but they keep coming in to avoid being starved of food and some other home needs,” he averred, adding that most times the men would break the bigger stones and sell to them, which they inturn break into smaller pieces of granite for onward sales with minimal profit.

Abdul said stone mining doesn’t befit women, noting how even men who engage in the work for a long period of years most times end up suffering from many ailments, including arthritis.
“So it is pathetic to see women coming into such difficult trade,” he stated.

Another location at Yams Farm community called Upper New York is also another stone mining point with a lot of women led by a chairlady, Marie Kaisamba, who said they have formed themselves into groups so that the work wouldn’t be tedious.

IMF COUNTRY FOCUS: Egypt Moving Forward, Key Challenges and Opportunities

The most important issues that face Egypt over the coming years are tied to a rapidly growing population, the modernization of its economy, and how best to ensure a modern social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society. Below, Subir Lall, who leads the IMF team on Egypt, discusses these three issues. 


Cairo, Egypt: Scene from the busy Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo. Khan El Khalili is a major souk in the Islamic district of Cairo (photo: Ictor/Getty Images by iStock)

1. Take advantage of the rapidly growing population

Over the next five years, around 3.5 million young Egyptians are projected to join the labor force. Absorbing these new entrants into the labor market will be a challenge. However, this also creates a tremendous opportunity for faster growth—if Egypt can support the emergence of a strong and vibrant private sector to productively employ this emerging generation of workers.

Over the past several decades, the private sector in Egypt has been less dynamic and outward-oriented than in peer countries, with a small share of firms able to compete outside the domestic market. To foster greater private sector development and export-led growth, the authorities have broadened the structural reform agenda under their program, initiating reforms to improve the efficiency of land allocation, strengthen competition and public procurement, improve transparency of state-owned enterprises, and tackle corruption.

2. Modernize the economy

With nearly 100 million people and a geographic location that provides excellent access to important foreign markets, Egypt has immense potential. However, economic development has been constrained by the legacy of inward-oriented economic policies, weak governance, and a large role for the state in economic activity that has resulted in significant misallocation of resources.

With the economy now stabilizing, Egypt’s challenge is to modernize its economy to better take advantage of its potential. An essential element of that process is to ensure the best allocation of resources to generate higher growth, and remove price distortions that impede markets from functioning efficiently.

Energy subsidies have been among the most significant price distortions. They keep fuel costs well below the market price, which encourage inefficient use of energy and overinvestment in capital intensive industries to take advantage of low fuel costs. Energy subsidies are costly and inequitable, tending to benefit the well-off who are disproportionately large energy consumers.

Pricing energy correctly will help improve economic efficiency so that investment is not channeled to capital intensive and heavy energy-use sectors. Rather, investment should be made into job creating sectors that benefit small and medium-sized businesses that take advantage of Egypt’s strengths, and help integrate the country into global supply chains. Reducing energy subsidies also frees up resources for health and education—critical to long-term economic growth and societal progress.

3. Provide a modern social safety net to protect the vulnerable

As Egypt begins to modernize its economy and make it more competitive, it will also need to continue to bring down public debt to a level consistent with long-term sustainability. The challenge is to ensure that the most vulnerable segments of society are protected during this process, and that fiscal resources are safeguarded for spending on health and education.

The shift away from a social protection system based on energy subsidies is crucial in moving toward a better-targeted and more effective social safety net. The 2018/19 budget will continue to replace poorly-targeted energy subsidies with programs that directly support the poorest households through expanded cash transfer and food subsidy programs. The authorities have strengthened programs like food smart cards, and more than doubled the amount of assistance provided through these cards.

The government has also strengthened social solidarity pensions, and the Takaful and Karama cash transfer programs. Takaful is an income support program for families with children, and Karama is a social inclusion program for persons who cannot work, specifically the elderly and people with disabilities.

These efforts are also being supported by reforms to improve the efficiency of government spending and tax collection to ensure that pro-poor spending and investments in health and education are protected. More broadly, the faster creation of private sector job opportunities and the integration of women into the labor force as part of the authorities’ inclusive growth strategy is expected to steadily improve living standards, including for lower-skilled workers.

The article is published courtesy of the IMF