Dinyavo, an area in the outskirt of Jalingo, the Taraba State capital is well known for a stone-crushing business – a male-dominated business. However, women are gradually taking over despite their high risk.
Dozens of women spend hours a day bent over this work, pulverizing stones while children hover around them.
Mary Yakubu is 50 years old but like the women around her she bears the marks of grueling work, her face smudged with dust that reddens her eyes, her lips cracked and swollen and fingers raw from constant contact with grit as she crushes stone.
After first digging out the stones in large pieces from the nearby rock, or bought them from diggers, Mary uses a hammer to crush them into gravel. She sorts and displays them on the roadside for sale. She sells her gravel to contractors and developers who use it in various construction activities.
‘This is a very risky business as we can hit or break our fingers with a hammer if care is not taken. We started this business in the year 2000 when there was no road in this area. We were farmers but the construction of the road (Donga Road) affected our farming activities. We have no option than to opt for this very business.
‘We are doing this work to support our husbands and be able to send our children to school. It is the only way where we will earn money to feed our families.’ Mary said
‘We are doing this work to support our husbands and be able to send our children to school. The gain in
this business is very little but due to the economic hardship in the country, we have to do it. We buy these stones at an expensive price and the transportation too is costly but we have to do it as we don’t have land for farming.’
Mary is among a group of women who have
defied the normal social norms, which dictate that some jobs are held only by men, and that woman should stick to household jobs such as cooking, fetching water and firewood and looking after children and relatives. Now, a growing number of those women are still responsible for household and care duties, but they also go to work in stones crushing sites.
“Stone crushing is not an easy job,â€ she says.
“There are many accidents and we sustain injuries. Some of them are
fatal, especially when the hammer hits our fingers that lead us to hospital.
‘When the economy of the nation is stable, we made a
lot of sales. We earned over twenty thousand Naira a day. But as the
situation becomes hard now, we had less than five thousand Naira.’
Stones crushing is the breaking of large stones into small particles for the building industry