Deep in Tanzania’s Umba Valley, Raheli digs into rocky soil.
It is back-breaking work and the sweat rolls down her face as she pulls out a small, glittering stone. Raheli, one of Tanzania’s female gem miners, is paid a little money for her labours.
Meanwhile, the gem may travel hundreds of miles to end up on a foreign jewellery counter, to be sold perhaps for thousands of pounds, euros, or dollars. In just the past two decades, seven African countries have endured brutal civil conflicts fuelled by precious stones, predominantly diamonds. These include Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Films like Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, have helped bring to light the intensification of civil wars fuelled by diamonds financing militaries and rebel militias. But the human rights abuses, horrific violence and child labour continues.