In support of the silicosis class action lawsuit holding South African gold mines accountable for failure to prevent and respond to silicosis and tuberculosis, Sonke examined the gendered impact of unpaid care work in communities that have been affected by silicosis.

The lawsuit sought justice for tens of thousands of current and former mineworkers who contracted silicosis and/or tuberculosis while working in South African gold mines, and for the dependents of deceased mineworkers, due to failures on the part of gold mining companies to prevent and treat the diseases.

The RME Unit conducted research to understand how silicosis has affected communities throughout the Eastern Cape and specifically women who have been responsible for caring for sick mineworkers.

In June 2015, we conducted five days of fieldwork throughout five communities in the Eastern Cape, which included 13 in-depth interviews with women caretakers (11 who are caring for men suffering from silicosis and two who are widows of men who died of complications related to silicosis) and two focus groups with men suffering from silicosis.

We asked women to describe their experiences of providing care for male mineworkers living with or who have died from silicosis and we explored the social and economic impact of providing care for ill mineworkers on women’s lives.