Bosnian coal mine bids farewell to women

In communist Yugoslavia, women were encouraged to work in coal mines with men. The few women remaining are about to retire.

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Bosnian coal mine bids farewell to women - NewsMavens
A female coal miner in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, USA. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

"What will we do with all these women," was a question many have wondered about when new labor policies were introduced during 1980s that encouraged women to work alongside men -- including in such place as coal mines. 

Hata Muratović Hasanspahić is one woman who started working in Bosnia's Breza mine as an explosives technician in 1984. Her story, recently published by the Equal Times, gives a belated but still very actual answer to the question of "what to do with a woman in the mine."

There's nothing to do. Women in the mine go underground even if they're pregnant. They manage without a toilet during the shift, because there are no toilets in mine's corridors, and must cut their long hair because of the job.

The retirement of Hata and her female colleagues will erase one of the few remaining "legacies of communism" in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

In the future, the mining work in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be designated "for men only." Because coal mining is too much for women to handle, men say. 

women's issues, ,work,gender

Details from the story:

  • The town of Breza was built around a coal mine that opened in 1907 when Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • Today, about 17,000 people live in Breza, about 20 kilometers from Sarajevo
  • The coal mine, owned public energy group Elektroprivreda of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is still one of the top employers in Breza.
  • EqualTimes.org reported that only 10 women are working in the Breza out of 1,250 total employees.
  • The women work as ventilation, safety or quality control officers and do not have to go down into the pit every day.
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