-How women build homes, purchase land, and support their families through sand mining

BY: Shallon S. Gonlor

NIMBA COUNTY — Dozens of women including single mothers in Nimba County have been left with no other alternative but to mine sand in order to support their family. Women’s involvement in sand mining isn’t strange in Liberia and Africa at large but it involves with more challenges that many don’t know. However, they have managed to attain laudable worth through the tedious process.

Sand mining is the extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit (or sand pit) [failed verification] but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or dredged from ocean and river beds.

WomenVoices’ Nimba County Correspondent visited sand mining sites in surrounding communities of Sanniquellie on Wednesday. During said visit, a significant number of women were involved in sand mining in different sites in the county. The women, mostly in their 30s and 40s were seen mining sand in swamp.

Commenting on their involvement in the practice, they highlighted numerous challenges they are faced with. Those women, especially single and unmarried women explained in distress the constrains they are confronted with. This has left them with no other options but to get involved with sand mining. 

“It’s not easy, but we mine sand just to survive” they said.

They stressed the need for a robust and targeted solutions to ensure their long-term economic livelihood and security. According to the women, though they are trying their best to survive and support their children and families, the struggle to find better living in a society that has economic challenges is unbearable.

Moreover, the women also shared their different experiences and constraints in life, stating how life has been almost impossible for them facing a thought hardship as sand miners, and highlighted their achievements since they started mining sand.

They noted that funds generated from the hard work have immensely supported and saved them from financial problems, including loan payment and other credit union, while others said it has helped them to develop themselves, built homes and purchased lands.

In a mining sector that is dominated and driven by men, women now take the frontline in sustainable sand mining to tackle poverty. Women of nearly all races and ethnicities face higher rates of poverty than men, which the highest rates are experienced by single or unmarried mothers with children being abandoned by their fathers.

Susannah Miakah, mother of 7, said she is “trying her best to be strong” as she struggles to feed her children and sponsor them to school. Ms. Miakah who mines sand daily, told this paper (WomenVoices) that she only has the means to sustain her family through the sand which she referred to as (Uncle Sam).

Speaking in her vernacular (Gio), she said she came in as sand miner when she became to encounter a rocket road in life, and currently as a single woman she is able to prepare multiple meals, provide quality education, shelter, and healthcare for her children.

Spending three years consultative as female sand miner, she noted that her story including life experiences has been a crisis and sever episode having been neglected and chased after from her community for debt.

“Thank you for coming, journalist. What brought me on this sand file is because people credit union money I credited. I credited huge money from credit union which I was unable to pay back. And people chased after me and today through the sand filed am able to pay all credit owed”. Susannah narrated. She further noted that, though the job has a thought task, but has also empowered her to be independent in an enabling society.

In addition, Winifred Gaye, mother of 5, contended that years back her life was so disturbed and complicated due huge financial problems and difficult after she and her children were abandoned with no support from her husband.

She averred in tears further that as the result she was left with no alternate to smooth her life, but to mine sand. She said also that even though the job is male dominated, but her involvement has made significant strides and gains. At the same time, a mother-of-8 has revealed that she has been forced to rely on sand mining due to the cost of living crisis – and admits she ‘can’t afford’ to feed her family without mining sand. 

Janet Wantoe, from Gbor Payee Town, also shared her experienced, outlining how she has been bothered by vices as a woman.

The 39-year-old candidly opened up about being bad mouth and insulted in for not being able to afford for her big family by people who claim she should not have had kids in the first place.

But Janet has insisted that she does not regret having so many children and said that mining sand has made her feels like ‘superpower.’ “I want to praise God because right now amcapable and strong in the male work. Right now, if you see me throwing shovel you will believe if am a woman” Janet said.

She said, each load of pickup car cost LD$1, 200, while a truck load is US$ 200, stressing how she sometimes provides assistance to those in need.

Janet Wantoe, a mother of four, said navigating the rising cost of living is making it difficult for her and her in-school children “just to survive.”

She is not the only one who is struggling to make ends meet. Elizabeth Wormean of Wehyee Play Town, said the rising cost of living is putting pressure on her family.

A single mother of four said life has not been an easy thing for her, sponsoring her four children in school from kindergarten to 9th grade, providing healthcare services among others. “You know, it’s just not easy.” she said.

A survey of more than 100 women representing household who are involved in sand mining at different places showed that they classed as being in “serious financial difficulty”.

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