Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
When Ms Evelyn Musharu was plying her trade in Chegutu as a hairdresser two decades ago, she never dreamt of any future beyond the single room she worked from, that served as her salon.
However, a decision by one client to pay for a hairdo with a gram of gold changed her life completely and reshaped the course of her life.
Today Ms Musharu owns several mines in and around Zimbabwe and is also the president of the Zimbabwe Women in Mining, a feat she never hoped to achieve
“I became a miner by accident really. What happened to me nearly 20 years ago changed the course of my life and destiny,” she said in an interview in Harare recently.
She believes that her future in mining was mapped long before she had even ventured into it.
“I had been a hairdresser for nearly 10 years, a profession that had sustained my family for a long time.
“However, it was in 1998 when a client told me that she had no cash to pay for a hairdo but could give me a gram of gold as payment,” she recalls.
Out of desperation, she accepted the gold, but cautioned the client not to continue bringing the commodity, since she wanted cash.
After that incident, more women started coming her, offering points or grams of gold in exchange for different styles of hairdo, with some requesting her services to sell the commodity on their behalf.
The money she was getting from gold was now outweighing her regular income at the salon, prompting her to close shop and focus in gold trading.
But because the flow of gold was not regular, Ms Musharu looked for an unregistered gold claim around Chegutu and immediately started exploring for gold.
“Ndakanga ndava mukorokoza kumakomba. Taiti tikanzwa kwaputika, taibva taenda kunochera, tichingotizana nemapurisa (I was now an illegal gold miner, and would go around looking for claims, evading police in the process).
Two years after venturing into gold mining, a mine commissioner in Chegutu advised her to formally register her activities and avoid regular clashes with law enforcement agents.
Armed with proper documentation, Ms Musharu scouted for gold claims and immediately got two at the same time.
“I worked very hard on the two claims. Within a few months I had bought more claims and was now employing several people to assist me on the claims.
Within a year, the benefits of gold mining were paying off. Ms Musharu was now able send all her three children to school, invest in immovable assets, while recapitalising her claims around Mashonaland West.
Because of her expertise in mining, several women were now approaching her to consult on mining issues.
It therefore did not come as a surprise when she came second in elections to choose a president to head the women’s mining organization held in Masvingo during a mining conference. Ms Musharu became the substantive head after the president left Zimbabwe to settle in the UK.
The association has more than 20 000 members from different parts of Zimbabwe, who have since benefited from gold claims from Ashanti and Falcon gold mines as well as chrome claims from Zimplats.
“Whilst we bought some of the claims at concessionary rates, we got some for free,” she said.
Ms Musharu says although there is a lot of stigma attached to women in mining, who are often described as women of loose morals and tricksters, the sector is very rewarding.
“There are a lot of women who would want to venture into mining, but are afraid of the stigma attached to sector. It is very unfortunate and should not be allowed to happen.
“Women should realise that the sector is very rewarding and is not seasonal as is the case with farming,” she said.
She however bemoaned lack of equipment such as compressors, milling plants, and the price of explosives, as some of the challenges that women in mining face.
“There are a lot of opportunities to grow. However, the only challenge that we are currently facing is lack of capital.
A mother of three, Ms Musharu says despite the challenges they face, the best is yet to come, because of the growing sector.