This past fall at the Madison Dialogue summit Anna & I had the opportunity to meet Shamsa Diwani, secretary general of the Tanzania Women Miner Association TAWOMA. TAWOMA seeks to eradicate poverty in the mining areas of Tanzania by serving the interest of women and children in the mining communities. Below is an interview with Shamsa discussing TAWOMA and what the jewelry industry can do to support their mission. Anna & I are very excited to begin working with Shamsa to source stones for our next collection.
Could you tell me how TAWOMA was started & why?
TAWOMA was started by our previous Chairperson Martha Bitwale,. Before starting TAWOMA, she was employed by a private company dealing with mining and serving as a master dealer of gemstones. During this time, she had a feeling and asked herself: why do women not unite and try to buy and sell gemstones in a group and that way they will not be used by men.
She then decided to form a group of seven women and they started to buy and sell in the town. Slowly the group became 20 members. This was at Tanga Region (Kalalani) where they mine most of colored gemstones such as Garnets, Amethyst, Sapphire, Green Tourmaline, Citrine, Quartz etc. Then she traveled to other regions and introduce her idea to other women at Mwanza, Shinyanga, Tunduru, Morogoro and Mirerani, the other branches mined Gold, Tanzanite, Diamond and Ruby and other precious and semi-precious stones. More women picked the idea up and the number of members increased to 80 members in 1997. At that point they decided to register the Association and form a leadership.
Where would you like TAWOMA to be in the future?
Our vision is to eradicate poverty through the mining sector by having a lapidary centre where we can add value to our products and a big mineral marketing centre where we can sell our products.
How many women are members of TAWOMA? Is it growing?
The Association is always growing, now it has 350 members.
What is your leadership role in the community like?
Our leadership role in the community is to network and create awareness of mining activities especially for women and youth. Also work together with the government and the larger mining companies. We are involved in different projects with the communities such as environmental, health and awareness on legal rights in the mining areas. The communities do appreciate our activities.
Are you able to work with small-scale jewelers on an international level?
We are able to work with Small Scale Jewelers on International levels.
How could jewelers work with you if they wanted to use your gems?
If a Jeweler wants to work with our gems, they can contact me. Eventually, we shall have our Mineral Marketing Centre and it will easier. My name SHAMSA DIWANI, SECRETARY GENERAL, TANZANIA WOMEN MINERS ASSOCIATION, P.O. BOX 22741, DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA, EAST AFRICA.
TAWOMAS’ email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
As we have not yet established our website you can just order what you want and we will email you images of what is available.
What types of gems do you mine?
The types of gems we mine are: Tanzanite, Ruby, Sapphire, Tourmaline, Red Garnet, Rhodolite, Amethyst, Citrine, White Topaz, Moonstone, Yellow Scarpolite, Chrysoprase, Green Garnet, and Zircon.
Has there been any difficulty in working with/or communicating with the larger mining operations?
It has not been difficult communicating with larger mining operations when need arise. In the future we would like to see TAWOMA being a leader in community development and poverty eradication by creating more jobs opportunities to the youth and women. Also we would like to see TAWOMA operating its own fair trade lapidary centre as well as having a well-organized Mineral Marketing Centre, in which we can promote our own ethical gemstones.
What are the major challenges that TAWOMA faces?
Our major challenges are:
Having enough funds to run our office and maintain communications with our branches.
Expertise in the mineral sector
Not having a Lapidary Centre with machinery and tools
Not having a Marketing Centre
Not having reliable transport to make trips to the mining sites
A lack of communications skills and teaching materials (computers, video camera, projector, laptop, scanner, printer, photocopier).
What could the international jewelry industry and others do to help you reach your goals?
The International Jewelry Industry/Community can help us by buying our products. By doing that, it will allow us reach our goal.
We shall also be happy if someone can donate the equipment (computers and projectors).
Could you tell me about the Miners Day that you are organizing?
We are organizing to hold Mineral Event (Miss Mineral) on the 4th May 2008 and Miners Day on 5th May 2008. We always hold the event of Miners Day every 5th of May in an effort to lobby our government to have a special day for miners as we normally have special days for different sectors. This day will unite all Stakeholders in the mining Industry. Big companies and small-scale miners will share and exchange experiences of their activities eg. mining, processing, marketing of minerals and finished products. It gives opportunity to learn from presenters, and meet buyers, also it is opportunity to talk to members of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals where they can air their suggestions, They also exhibit their products. We have done this since year 2004 each 5th of May, In 2004 – Morogoro (where they mine different type of semi-precious stones, Ruby and Gold), 2005 – Singida (where they mine Zircon and Gold) 2005 – Arusha (Tanzanite, Iolite, Spessatite, Rubinite, Green Garnet) 2007 – Shinyanga – (Diamond, Gold) and this year to in Dar es Salaam where they deal with sand, kaolin, aggregate. These are only few mentioned but many types of gemstones can be found. In this event we shall have chance to promote and introduce ethical jewelry and fair trade gold.
Our intention to make this day recognized officially and represent the small and large-scale miners together to the government.