Although historically the mining sector has been male-dominated the world over, some positive steps have been made to integrate women into the industry, and locally, 32-year-old Cynthia Mughogho is one of such women.
Captivated by Karonga’s rich natural and cultural heritage, she was inspired to study Geology and Geography in college; and in 2011 she attained a Degree in Education (Science) from Chancellor College.
“My interest to study the two subjects was intrigued by Karonga’s rich natural and cultural heritage. I come from Wovwe, a village close to Uraha Hill where the fossil discoveries of Dinosaurs and early humans and the pre-historic remains displayed at the Karonga Museum were found. It happened that during my holiday, prior to college enrolment, I visited the site where the remains were excavated,” she explains.
While working as a geologist with the Geological Survey Department in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Cynthia developed an interest to engage further in natural resource governance.
She wanted to make her voice count, having noted that beyond the pride in the vastness of the country’s natural resources, minimal benefits trickle down to the resource-rich communities.
“It is not a secret that natural resource wealth, which should fundamentally contribute to development outcomes at all levels, has for many years been exploited unsustainably amidst weak institutions, poor governance and corruption,” says Cynthia.
On that premise, she later found herself fighting for the rights of mining communities living around mining sites, which went on to earn her recognition as a Change Maker at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Trust Conference for her work in supporting mining communities and defending their rights.
At the time, she worked for Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa), coordinating the Malawi chapter of Publish What You Pay — a worldwide campaign for an open and accountable extractive industry.
She also sat on Malawi Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) Multi-Stakeholder Group — a grouping of representatives from government, companies, and civil society to oversee EITI implementation.
Cynthia worked closely with communities around mining sites to ensure that their voices are reflected in government’s policy making processes and ensured that they created platforms to promote constructive debate and dialogue on mining policy development and implementation.
Among other key proposals, Natural Resource Justice Network (NRJN) lobbied for the inclusion of elements in the legal and regulatory framework for mining in Malawi, to enable the sector to contribute significantly to sustainable social and economic development.
While this was the case for the broader NRJN agenda, her main interest was to ensure that they lobbied for the regulation of community benefits and the safeguarding of human, environmental and social rights of mining communities living around mine sites.
“Recognizing that all mining activities have negative and positive impact on local communities, our efforts to empower communities to engage constructively with mining investors and government and to demand their fair share from mining proceeds, centered on the respect for human rights,” says the geologist who likes gardening, doing physical exercises and reading books.
Currently working as program manager with IM Swedish Development Partner — an international organisation fighting and exposing poverty and exclusion — Cynthia’s ambition is to progressively continue to be of service to mankind.
“I would like to empower women and fellow youth to continue to take on challenging tasks before them. I would really be excited to work with fellow women and youth to challenge stereotypes and deconstruct narratives that aim at disparaging the incredible work that women and youth do to effect societal change,” she explains.
Born in 1988 on Malawi’s Independence Day — 6 July, Cynthia comes from Karonga. She is married to Suzgo Chipimpha Mughogho from Chitipa which ironically, is also her district of birth.
She attended Nkhamenya Girls Secondary School before being selected to Chancellor College for her Bachelor of Education (Science). She also holds a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Management from the University of Derby.
Cynthia has undergone professional development in Public Social Accountability Monitoring with Rhodes University; Leadership in Extractives and African Development at the University of Cape Town and Contract Negotiation and Drafting by African Legal Support Facility.
Prior to joining IM Swedish Development Partner, she worked with Cepa as a programme officer for Natural Resource Governance.
At Cepa is where she worked closely with the NRJN — a local civil society network working on natural resource governance in lobbying for efficient, transparent, and sustainable extractive industry.
Growing up in a family of six children, Cynthia was lucky to be surrounded by people who believed in her.
“My parents are positive minded individuals. I was also raised by my sister and brother in-law who inspired and influenced my approach to life. My other siblings also nurtured me to take responsibility of my life and supported my efforts. My husband is also supportive, and he encourages me to take on diverse responsibilities,” she says.
Even though the mining sector is male-dominated at all levels, the young woman says working as a geologist in the sector taught her to overcome the fear of working with men even at decision making level.
She concludes by leaving younger girls with the words by Robin Sharma: “associate only with positive, focused people who you can learn from and who will not drain your valuable energy with uninspiring attitudes. By developing relationships with those committed to constant improvement and the pursuit of the best that life has to offer, you will have plenty of company on your path to the top of whatever mountain you seek to climb.”