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Press Release: Women in the DRC at the Bottom of Supply Chains: The Invisible Reason for a Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

21 October 2016

Read press release in French.

New report documents gender discrimination, slavery-like conditions, deterioration of reproductive health, violence, forced displacement, and sexual exploitation experienced by women in (and because of) artisanal mines in the DRC. The timely report is released few days before the second session of the intergovernmental working group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises, scheduled to take place in Geneva on 24-28 October 2016.  

pages-from-womeninartisanalminesindrc_webStates cannot afford to continue ignoring the gendered aspects of corporate human rights abuses, says Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) today, following the publication of the report Life at the bottom of the chain: Women in artisanal mining in DRC.

Artisanal mining accounts for over 80% of mined products exported by the DRC, and women generally play a much larger – but often invisible – role in artisanal mining than in the large-scale mining sector. The report documents how women are among the most impacted by the insalubrious and precarious conditions and the militarisation of artisanal mining sites.

“The power of corporations and financiers has far outstripped the ability of elected governments to moderate or control them. It is time for a binding legal framework to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises, ” says Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary General, stressing that “the legitimacy of a future treaty will depend on whether and how gender analysis and participation of affected women are part of the drafting process.”

“If a future treaty is to protect and promote women’s rights effectively, then gender analysis needs to be integrated throughout the drafting process,” argues Rees, referring to the fact women experience direct and indirect consequences of mining activities in different, and often more pronounced, ways than men. This is particularly so in the case of artisanal mining. In the DRC mining sites covered in WILPF’s research, women’s roles are generally relegated to droumage (crushing, sorting and washing of minerals, sifting the crushed minerals, and processing the waste), which are the most toxic mining activities, selling the minerals, or to marginal support roles with minimal profitability.

A legally binding treaty has the potential to assign clearer responsibilities to all actors in the supply chain and to prevent violations against women. “For example, corporations should be required to ensure that their supply chains are subject to strict gender considerations and to assess whether their activities strengthen or exacerbate existing gender-based inequalities,” explains Rees.

This report is based on the research: “Enquête sur les violations de droits humains subies par les femmes congolaises dans l’exploitation des mines artisanales dans la province du Haut Katanga” conducted by Annie Matundu Mbambi and Léonnie Kandolo of WILPF DRC.

It is part of WILPF’s work on bringing to light human rights violations relating to the activities of business enterprises, their impact on women, and their relationship with the root causes of conflicts. The upcoming session of the ‘Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights’ provides the opportunity to advance towards an enhanced global regulatory framework for the accountability of transnational corporations.

WILPF is part of the Treaty Alliance.

Further reading: 

Fact sheet on women in artisanal mining in the DRC, gender analysis, and the treaty on multinational corporations and women’s human rights

Publication Life at the bottom of the chain: Women in artisanal mining in DRC (French and English)

Research study “Enquête sur les violations de droits humains subies par les femmes congolaises dans l’exploitation des mines artisanales dans la province du Haut Katanga” (French)

Pictures under the common creative license can be found on WILPF’s Flickr account. Please credit the photographer.

For further information, please contact:

Patrizia Scannella, WILPF Human Rights Director, email:, telephone: +41 (0)22 919 70 80. Based in Geneva, Switzerland.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations. She holds a PhD in Social Work and currently works at the University of Texas as the Director of Human Trafficking Research at one of the university’s think tanks. Of Mexican descent, born on the US and Mexican border, and raised between the two countries, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. She is also involved with the American Red Cross as a volunteer, trainer, and researcher focused on post-disaster aid distribution and work with undocumented Latinxs. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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