She was looking for a chance to make money and she set out to find a rare mineral that is said to have been thousands of times more rare than diamonds. But because women are not allowed to work in mines, Pili Hussein dressed like a man and managed to trick her colleagues for almost a decade.
Pili was born in a large family in Tanzania. Daughter of a breeder who had six spouses, was one of his 38 children. She tells her story at the BBC, noting: “My father felt like a boy watching animals – I did not like this life at all.”
Her marriage was not happy, and when she was 31 she was uprooted by her violent husband.
Looking for work, she found herself in a small Tanzanian city, Meredan, at the foot of Kilimanjaro, the only place in the world where mining a rare, blue precious stone called Tanzanite is being carried out. “I did not go to school, so I had no choice. Women are not allowed in the mines, so I entered dynamically as a brave, strong man, “she says. “Uncle Hussein called me. And today if anyone comes and ask me my name, that’s what I say. ”
She was working hard, 10-12 hours a day, digging and sifting through muddy tunnels, hundreds of feet below the ground. “I went to a depth of 600 meters. I did a more brave and powerful job than men. I was very strong “she notes and says no one ever suspected she was a woman.
But after a year, a local woman complained to the police that she had been raped by miners and among the suspects Pili was arrested. “When the police came and started to question the workers, one of them showed me and said thatI did it,” she says, and she asked the police to search her physically to prove her innocence.
Although she was released, her colleagues found it hard to believe she was a woman, and she had been able to trick them up for so many months. “They did not believe me even when the police said I was a woman. It was not easy to accept it, until I married in 2001 and made my own family. ” Pili managed to find the rare mineral, and now thanks to the property she sold, she opened her own mine by financially boosting her large family. “I’m proud of what I did, I became rich but it was all very difficult for me.”