“There are things men can do, that women can do better” – woman miner shares her story
Jennifer Caeser-Swan was born into a family of miners. So, she inherited the mining profession. Her experience is more practical, particularly in the functioning aspect; she has lived it all.
Working in the mining sector, Caeser-Swan experienced many discriminatory slurs. She recounts one instance when she was told that as a woman she would not reach far in the sector and should stop pushing. The place from which it was coming caused her to step back, but she did some analysing and realised that she would not allow anyone, even in high esteemed positions to stop her from pursuing her dreams.
Her success thus far in the sector is credited to the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation (GWMO). The Organisation has been that shoulder to lean on, and is, today, her guide and helper, as she progresses. Caeser-Swan said the GWMO literally – walked with her – went to places together and in some instances, it represented her interest.
When asked about one thing she wished she knew before entering the mining industry, Caeser-Swan explained that she wished that someone would have told her that one’s man property could fall ‘smack dab’ in the middle of another’s. Caeser-Swan further explained that this was so, because a mining concession is greater than a mining block, and so, a block can fall within a concession, which could be someone else’s property.
Her advice to women who wish to get into the mining sector is to see past their womanhood, look at themselves as individuals who are setting out to do their work for their families and become their own bosses.
The behavioural nuances of the ‘man-dominated’ field have not affected Caeser-Swan, owing to her inheritance of the business after the passing of her dad.
“Prior to the death of my father, I was learning the behavioural patterns of the people, so when the time came to adapt, I was well capable.”
For Caeser-Swan, the work can become demanding, and can affect the balance of profession and family life. However, notwithstanding the challenges that come with trying to balance both, she manages fairly well.
Her favourite things to do are related to her spirituality, Caeser-Swan informs. She enjoys reading the word of God (the Holy Bible), and interacting with persons about the things of God.
Caeser-Swan is very close-mouthed about the gold mining operation and her
functions. She chronicles that the last time she and some colleagues were heading up into the back dam, the boat nearly sunk. Further, when they got to shore, she learnt she was the only person who could swim out of the five that were travelling. It is perhaps for these reasons that Caeser-Swan does not talk much about the mining operations with her loved ones.
She is also calling for the relevant authorities to give women the opportunity to showcase themselves and her skills, especially in the mining field. The GWMO came in for much praise for its continued support, training and guidance.
The phasing out of the use of mercury in gold mining has been something that the authorities have been pushing for, but according to Caeser-Swan, some miners still use mercury, so it is an area that she would like to work with fellow miners on, particularly given the dangers associated with the use of mercury, “because we know that in using the mercury, sometimes persons would just have the gold and burn it just like that in the open air, (I would like to) let them know that when that mercury comes off from the gold it goes out into the atmosphere and does a lot of damage. You not only inhale it but it can go through your pores.”
Caeser-Swan, when asked about the challenges she foresees in decreasing the use of mercury in mining practices and the movement towards green mining strategy programmes, indicates that adoptability might be a challenge, but she is confident that the GWMO is willing to aid in that process.
She added, “I would want to … enlighten other miners not only women, but miners across the board about the best practice. The sustainability of mining in a safe way… to enlighten them about the phasing out of the mercury and the safe practices in the setting of the land to work. How they should set the pit, as we would call it; the layout of the pit to have the settling ponds, to ensure they have the dam built, so that the water from the settling pond wouldn’t escape and go out in the rivers or the creeks or whatever…… “.
Meanwhile, as the administration moves towards the crafting and subsequent implementation of a mining policy, Caeser-Swan said it might be a challenge for the grouping, but it was something they intended to take on.
In summing things up, Caeser-Swan explained that once the President and other members of the GWMO were exposed to training opportunities, that knowledge would be passed on to others.