- Resource Extraction and the Human Rights of Women and Girls
The relationship between women and resource extraction is complex and multi-faceted. Women may work within the extractive industry or in jobs that support or service the industry. They may be part of a community affected by resource extraction and suffer differentiated impacts to those of men, which are either linked to, among other things, their gender roles within the community, their intersectional vulnerability to violence, or as activists and leaders resisting resource extraction. Their roles and identities in their communities may change due to resource extraction, and they may suffer inequalities in relation to accessing the benefits of extractive projects.1
Large-scale mining and oil and gas development has historically been highly gendered and deeply masculine. While there are an increasing number of women working within these industries, whether as executives, employees, lawyers, or business partners, globally, women remain under-represented.2 In large-scale resource extraction, women are more likely to find work in "human resources, communication, accounting [and] finance" rather than as managers and, as a result, have trouble advancing to executive roles.3 Even as it becomes more common for women to be directly engaged in industrial mining, there is a need to address structural issues so as to ensure gender equality and a safe and discrimination-free workplace.4 [End Page i]
Other women from resource extraction-affected communities may be vocally opposed to mining or oil and gas development projects, at times leading opposition to proposed projects that may have been approved without their consultation or consent. Katy Jenkins points to a number of negative impacts of resource extraction that differentially affect women and girls,5 including the contamination of lands and water, its effect on biodiversity, and the increased burdens on women and girls who may be responsible for food production or gathering and for finding clean water or for caring for family members sickened by such contamination;6 gender specific health impacts of resource extraction;7 the displacement and loss of local subsistence livelihood leading to high-risk lifestyles8 or changes in gender roles within the community;9 and increased risks of violence against women due [End Page ii] to the influx of large numbers of mainly male workers or the presence of military, police, or private security forces purporting to protect the extractive project in question, among other things.10 An added complexity in this time of climate crisis is whether it is even possible to reconcile the development of new oil and gas projects with any vision of a rights-respecting future, particularly one that is respectful of the rights of vulnerable women and children who disproportionately experience climate harms.11
While the experiences of women and girls in, and affected by, resource extraction differ depending on the country and extraction contexts, all such ventures risk exacerbating existing problems of gender discrimination and violence. Different and increased burdens and challenges confront Indigenous women and girls,12 and other [End Page iii] women and girls who face intersecting forms of discrimination and violence due to their age, race, socio-economic status, able-bodiedness, and sexual orientation, among other things. Yet some projects that are undertaken in accordance with best practices and gender-aware community consent practices may offer opportunities, irrespective of gender, for adults and children, and the communities in which they live, to lead resilient livelihoods and futures in harmony with local environments.13
There has been a general failure to acknowledge gender-based discrimination against, and gendered impacts on, women and girls associated with resource extraction. States have widely ratified international human rights treaties and endorsed instruments on the promotion and protection of women's and girls' human rights and gender equality.14 They have also recognized the need to ensure gender equality, respect, protection, and fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls, the empowerment of all women and girls as a central component of sustainable development,15 and have endorsed the social responsibility of business actors to respect all human rights.16 With respect to the governance of transnational resource extraction, much [End Page iv] of...