Community awareness and education

Education

Education

Ideas generated around Event: GCRF Mine Dust and Health Workshop

The trans-disciplinary nature of the workshop meant that this theme was led by an anthropologist, and thus the words and meanings of this theme was unpicked as was everybody’s bias’s and pre-dispositioned opinions.

It was pointed out that the notion of community as a singular must be broken open and unpacked, as appose to defining mining communities as something definitive. A community is not homogenous. There are communities of artisanal miners, of miners themselves, government, of researchers (us) and of monitors. We need to think through what these communities may look like. Community’s have their own cultures, practices and the ways in which they approach things. While the themes title speaks to education, the group focussed mainly on community awareness. It was proposed that awareness was knowledge, and needed to come from the bottom up, up through whatever community it is. The other important model that came up in terms of communities was the notion of distress. How do we quantify and measure the distress that groups of people are experiencing. How do you rank and prioritise distress. Importantly, one must draw on the knowledge of the groups of people as to what that distress looks like. different groups of people or communities will experience different types and levels of distress. Thus distress can be one way to identify communities, and thus what we may do with them.

What came out of this group was sadness, frustration, anger, trauma and distress. This can be turned back around on the notion of communities and distress. If a community of researchers feels sadness and frustration, what can one identify or postulate about this group of people. This is perhaps why the group was unable to go into the benefits; this could not be seen at that time.

The group cautioned that however we imagine or understand communities, there will still be divisions within that. Thus, we need to pay attention to a range of socio-economic demographics, such as gender, type of job, location, type of rock, etc. Furthermore, the notion that dust is a problem is not a uniform thought or priority. While for researchers it seems apparent that dust poses health risks and is thus an issue, there are others for who dust is not a priority, even if they know it is an issue. This can be because for them putting food on their families table is the highest priority. This very issue often blocks research on dust, because for some people it’s not a priority or seen as an issue. Thus, we need to take a holistic view of what community’s in distress may need. In some circumstances, the notion of dust should not be addressed before other concerns or distresses are addressed, such as educational or food concerns.

It is very easy to pay attention to the problems and not the success cases. That is why it is important to identify the pockets of hope, be it at an individual level or a case of really good mining practices that can generate beneficial models.

Another member of the seminar commented: For mining to be sustainable, communities must be sustainable. For communities to be sustainable and to level the playing fields, they need access to knowledge and information. A democratic space between mines and community’s need to be opened up, even before the engagement process. Communities need to be connected, for example, they need access to experts at the workshop. They need to do their own research and be part of decision making. They need to be agents of their own change and take destiny over their own lives.

This raised another caution however, that the problem with the notion of empowerment, is that once they are empowered they are responsible and then it is their fault and they are responsible for their own health. Furthermore, the problem and the solution do not only lie with the impacted communities, therefore it is important to not constrict it to the communities, as the solutions and problems lie with the shareholders of company’s.

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