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Journal for the Study of Religion

On-line version ISSN 2413-3027
Print version ISSN 1011-7601


SIWILA, Lilian Cheelo. Reconstructing the Distorted Image of Women as Reproductive Labour on the Copperbelt Mines in Zambia (1920-1954). J. Study Relig. [online]. 2017, vol.30, n.2, pp.75-89. ISSN 2413-3027.

The paper discusses the conceptualising of the presence of women in the Copperbelt mine compound in Zambia during the period 1920 -1954. Like many other mining companies across Southern Africa, The British South African Company which owned the mining rights on the Copperbelt imposed certain restrictions on women who came to the copperbelt province. Initially mine owners did not favour the idea of allowing women to live in the mine compound for the fact that women were seen as a distraction to production in the mines. The outcome of this decision was that as time went by most of the men left their jobs to return to the villages to be with their spouses. Those who were single took advantage of the neighbouring villages during weekends and stayed on with their girlfriends and sometimes only returned back for work later in the week. This affected production in the mines and made the mine bosses to propose rules on how to incorporate women in the mine compounds. The aim of this study is to demonstrate how patriarchy played an important role in excluding women from participating in the economic development that took place on the copperbelt during that period. The paper further highlights ways in which the colonial government displayed some ambiguities in the exclusion and inclusion of women in the economic development of the copperbelt mines. The article will also show how labour markets exploited women's rights to participate in the economic development in the copperbelt and how when access was granted women's productive and reproductive labour was used as a form of economic drive. The paper further argues that when it comes to women' s bodies, throughout history, religion has played an important role in defiling women' s bodies. It is this negative perception that was also perceived in the mining company in the copperbelt during the period under study. While women were seen as a threat to economic development, their presence in the copperbelt also played a significant role in the economic development of the copperbelt mining companies. Therefore, women' s contribution during the foundation of modern African life in Zambia needs to be acknowledged in our discussion of the development of the copperbelt mines.

Keywords : British South African Company; Copperbelt mines; women; Women' s bodies; production and reproduction; Religion; labour market.

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