SOURCE: New Zimbabwe

TOP government officials have called upon local women to venture into the lucrative business of mining and trading in gemstones, which are abundant in the countryside.

Gemstones fall in the semi-precious minerals category and include tourmaline, tiger’s eye, tanzanite, and ruby, among others.

Addressing stakeholders during the official launch of the Women In Gemstones Association of Zimbabwe (WIGAZ) in Chinhoyi last week, Women’s Affairs, Community, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development director, Julia Mapungwana said there were infinite business opportunities for women, who must stop being mere consumers of gemstones products.

“Zimbabwe is one of the biggest producers of minerals and gemstones while women are the biggest users of end products and accessories such as earrings, watches, necklaces, and wedding rings. “Therefore, women should be major stakeholders in the mining and beneficiation of these gemstones. Don’t just wear them, but get into mining gemstones,” said Mapungwana.

She thanked various stakeholders in the mining value chain complementing government efforts in empowering citizens, attaining gender parity, and Vision 2030 of making the county an upper-middle income economy.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka urged more female players to enter gemstones exploration. “Women need to step up and join the empowerment bandwagon so that they are also financially independent and contribute to the development of the economy,” said Mliswa-Chikoka.

WIGAZ chairperson, Primrose Siakachana expressed optimism the sector would bring prosperity to vulnerable female folk. “We formed this association to share ideas, information, and skills transfer. Some women in rural communities where gemstones are in abundance, cannot identify gems in the fields they till daily.

“Our hope is to enable single, widowed, elderly women and female youths to identify gemstones as well as get into value addition for it to be more profitable,” said Siakachana. She said gemstone mining was fairly new in Zimbabwe but hoped exploring the area would uplift livelihoods.

“The formation of WIGAZ is something that should help more women to venture into gemstone mining and create employment along the value chain,” said Siakachana. A WIGAZ member, Sitelia Phiri from Kazangarare in Hurungwe district told she recently ventured into beneficiation of gems and now managing a thriving enterprise.

“We used to sell gemstones in tonnages, but due to knowledge transfer through WIGAZ we are now cutting and polishing the stones and making jewelry that we hope to export after securing export licenses,” said Phiri.

WIGAZ was launched amid calls for more women to join trading in semi-precious stones that permeate the country’s landscape and do not require a huge start-up capital to prospect and process.

The launch follows the presentation of certificates to 10 women who undertook courses covering Principles of Gemology at the Zimbabwe School of Mines aimed at promoting value addition.

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