A female Tanzanite miner, who disguised herself as a man to work in Tanzania’s Mererani Mines, is now raking in profits from the activity.
After hiding her identity for years, for fear of being sidelined, Pili Hussein, made a successful living out of the activity. She dressed up as man and fooled her male colleagues for almost a decade.
Pili now employs 70 people, is a land owner and provides for her family and relatives.
“Women were not allowed in the mining area, so I entered bravely like a man, like a strong person. You take big trousers, you cut them into shorts and you appear like a man. That’s what I did,”she says.
And for a complete transformation, she also changed her name.
“I was called Uncle Hussein, I didn’t tell anyone my actual name was Pili. Even today if you come to the camp you ask for me by that name, Uncle Hussein.”
She would work 10-12 hours a day, digging and sieving, hoping to uncover gemstones in the veins in the graphite rock.
“I could go 600m under, into the mine. I would do this more bravely than many other men. I was very strong and I was able to deliver what men would expect another man could do.”
Pili struck it rich after about a year after she uncovered two massive clusters of tanzanite stones. She was able to build new homes for her father, mother and twin sister, bought herself more tools, and began employing miners to work for her with the money.
She now owns her own mining company with 70 employees, three of them women who work as cooks not miners. Pili says that although there are more women in the mining industry than when she started out, even today very few actually work in the mines.