West Pokot County is located on the northern side of Kenya and has access to the gold-bearing green belt that traverses through the northern and western region of Kenya.
Traditionally, the Pokot communities are pastoralists who live a nomadic lifestyle. However, in the recent years, their economic activities have gradually changed to include artisanal mining after the government started an initiative to help the community stop the cattle rustling menace that often leaves many dead and properties destroyed.
Today, most of the mining is done by women and girls as men and boys, according to the traditions, take care of their livestock.
A Regular Day for A Pokot Mining Woman
The day often starts early with preparation to go to the mining site at River Muruny in search of the precious metal along the river bed. River Muruny is among several other rivers that the Pokot community mine for gold.
The excruciating heat and long distances to the rivers are some of the main challenges the women face. In addition, the gold that the lucky miners get are sold at Ksh600 ($6) or sometimes even lower. As of July 2020, a gram of gold is sold to the middle men for Ksh. 3,500. However, not many are able to meet the threshold while middlemen often exploit the miners.
The women carry their children on their backs while the grown up girls help in carrying jembes and shovels that are used as tools to extract gold from the river beds.
Once at the river bed, both women and young girls- as young as 8 years old sort sand and rocks by adding water to metal basins in the search for gold.
West Pokot mining industry is often associated with the worst form of child labor.
According to a report from The Standard, children as young as 8 years old often work at the mines to fend for them and help their mothers to feed the family. In the Pokot culture, women are the sole bread winners of the family; hence, young girls are often involved in the mining activities.
The corona virus pandemic has further promoted child labor in gold mining. After the government shut down schools, most of the children in the area are now involved in mining, as their parents approve of their involvement in the dangerous activity