Gloria* is an artisanal cobalt miner in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cobalt mining has always been a part of her life.
But never did she imagine her young children would be working alongside her.

This was not the life she dreamed of for them.


*Gloria’s story has been written to reflect the experiences of interviews with women in Kolwezi, protecting their anonymity. While names and details have been changed, Gloria’s story is true to what we heard. Information throughout is based on interviews with women artisanal cobalt miners and traders in Kolwezi during 2022 and 2023.

Gloria’s household costs were adding up. Her choice was simple: let her family go hungry or begin mining. But she’s still struggling to put food on the table.

Families most often rely on women’s income to cover basic needs including rent, food, schooling, and medical expenses. Even if married, their husband’s income is unreliable or not enough, and women have been delegated childcare and household responsibilities. The environment is dry and dusty, with not many trees. There are few small gardens or agricultural plots. Food in Kolwezi becomes expensive as it needs to be imported from other regions.

Women turn to cobalt mining because it’s the highest earning job, they have cash at the end of every working day, and it requires no investment and little training or skill. However, inequality at mine sites is prevalent. Women are prevented from accessing certain mine sites, they take on the lowest paid roles, or are cheated in prices when selling their minerals. As a result, they struggle to make ends meet.

$2.15–8.60 USD

What women artisanal cobalt
miners earn per day

Gloria’s family is struggling.
One day, her two oldest children go to the mine site with her. Now Gloria relies on her children’s income to help pay for food and cover rent.

Children begin to work when families get desperate, leading to a reliance on income from child labour to cover basic needs. Just like for women, mining provides the highest income in the area for children. Some are encouraged by parents, others independently follow in the footsteps of siblings and friends.

Unable to leave young children at home by themselves, women bring them to the mine site where they can watch them and ensure their safety. This exposes the lack of available childcare options for working mothers. As they get older, children begin mining supervised by siblings and other family members.

$0.86 to $2.50 USD
A child’s daily income from cobalt mining

Gloria knows it’s not right, but they have no other choice. She makes sure her children stay close and if she hears the security agents coming, she warns them to run back home.

Children set their work around the hours of security agents. They know their locations and have signals to alert each other of their presence. While some mine sites have security patrols, families also may move to different sites where checks are less rigorous or where there is a perception that children will be safer.

Everyone understands that child labour is prohibited and detrimental to children’s well-being. But they see no other option other than hunger. Not only is there an ambivalence to the prohibition of child labour, but many also collude for their own benefit. Women shared how some security or government agents turned a blind eye, while others demanded payment or threatened them and their children with jail time and heavy fines if they didn’t pay an informal “access fee.”

“If we really want to prevent children from entering mine sites, we must give them something to eat. You cannot forbid a child from working at the mine when they have no food, while the one who forbade them has eaten.”

- Joelle, artisanal cobalt miner

Gloria and her children have cash everyday they work thanks to cobalt. But as our demand for the mineral grows, Gloria and her community also need to reap its benefits.

Cobalt is critical to technology for the clean energy transition. It’s a main component in lithium-ion batteries used in laptops, smartphones, and electric vehicles. It’s also used as an important part of permanent magnets, which are necessary for renewable wind power.

As this demand for cobalt continues to surge, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) plays a critical role. Most of the the world’s cobalt comes from large-scale mining companies in DRC. But as demand grows, cobalt has become a lucrative source of income for artisanal miners like Gloria. However, the benefits of green technology still have not trickled down to households in Kolwezi, many which lack electricity and cook over charcoal fires.

Gloria wants her children to go to school and to have a better life. If she is given the chance and the resources, she could change the future.

The solution can’t be to simply ban children from mine sites. Children will continue to need to work if its due to poverty and hunger. We need to increase the income of the main breadwinners—women. To do this, we need to increase women’s overall security and ensure they are integrated as community leaders.

Women across
the artisanal
cobalt sector

Ending child labour starts with investing in women artisanal cobalt miners in Democratic Republic of Congo.

How Households Depend on Children’s Income: The Case for Improving Women’s Livelihoods to Eliminate Child Labour in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Cobalt Sector

Our latest research paper examines the role of child labour in artisanal cobalt mining and its link to women’s security. Dive into further details on what children’s income goes towards, how children organize their work, and hear from women miners.


As a consumer

  • Share Gloria’s story with your friends, families, colleagues, and networks.
  • Learn more about how and why investing in women can help to end child labour in Democratic Republic of Congo’s cobalt mines.
  • Ask questions about how your products are sourced and from where.
  • Tell companies you are interested in purchasing products sourced with materials from artisanal miners.

As a company sourcing cobalt

  • Don’t boycott sourcing from Democratic Republic of Congo as cobalt mining is an important livelihood for local communities.
  • Proactively engage with local communities to address the issue of child labour by moving away from enforcement, which is putting children and women at further risk, and introduce sustainable, evidence-based measures through a progressive improvement approach.
  • Invest in improved practices and gender equality by funding local actors in DRC to meet the identified needs for women in the artisanal cobalt sector.

As a policymaker

  • Listen and actively engage those working in the sector, especially women themselves, to understand the context and evidence-based solutions to end child labour.
  • Introduce policy reform and its implementation that supports women’s rights and ends discrimination at mine sites.
  • Invest in increasing women’s security and women-led solutions by funding local actors in DRC to meet the identified needs for women in the artisanal cobalt sector.

Share Gloria’s Story

Share the images or video clips on social media and by email with your friends, family, and colleagues.

Include the hashtag #MeetGloria and tag us @IMPACTtransform in your post.

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#MeetGloria to hear how ending child labour starts with investing in women artisanal cobalt miners in Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Gloria’s story has been developed as part of IMPACT’s Her Security project.

The first phase of this project focuses on elevating women’s voices internationally to highlight the root causes of child labour in cobalt mining to drive investment and support for sustainable change. A future, second phase will engage DRC stakeholders towards women’s empowerment in artisanal cobalt mining communities and support activities to strengthen women’s capacity to increase their economic security in the sector.

Adisi ya Gloria ili fanywa kama sehemu ya mradi wa Usalama Wake wa IMPACT. Hatua ya kwanza ya mradi huu inalenga kupaza sauti za wanawake kila mahali ili kuchunguza vyanzo vya kazi ya watoto ndani ya uchimbaji madini ya kobalti ili kutia uhodari na michango ya kipesa ndani ya kazi ili kufikiya mabadiliko ya kudumu. Hatua ya pili ina lazimishwa ku kusanya mausika wote mu DRC kwa lengo ya kufikiya kujitegemeya ki uchumi ya wanawake  wachimbaji madini wa kobalti na ku saidia ma kazi zao kuwapâ nguvu na akili ili wafikiye kukamilisha usalama wa kipesa ya kazi katika sekta hiyo.

Special thanks to the women artisanal cobalt miners and traders in Kolwezi who spoke with IMPACT to share their stories. This project would not have been possible without them. Additional thanks to IMPACT’s women researchers in DRC who provided invaluable contributions to this project, as well as to Bon Pasteur Kolwezi and the Good Shepherd International Foundation (GSIF) who provided research support.

Her Security is undertaken with funding provided by a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative, through the Responsible Business Alliance Foundation.