HOUNDE, Burkina Faso (Reuters) – Tene Konate takes pride in telling incredulous relatives about her job driving a 72-tonne dump truck around the vast open pit at the Hounde gold mine in western Burkina Faso.
The 42-year-old single mother is one of 111 women at the mine, many trained for jobs that would more traditionally be done by men in West Africa: hauling rubble, blasting rocks, or driving heavy vehicles.
Konate and her female colleagues are the beneficiaries of a global push by mining companies to bring more women into an industry that has lagged behind others in tackling gender imbalances. They remain firmly in the minority however: women make up just 11% of the workforce at Hounde, which is run by Canada’s Endeavour Mining.
After separating from her husband, Konate had struggled to provide for her two young daughters with odd jobs cleaning houses, cooking, and mixing concrete. When she heard the mine was hiring, she traveled across the country by bus for the interview.
“The mine has changed everything in my life. Everything,” she said. She now lives in a large house in Hounde and can pay for her daughters’ schooling.