Aiding and empowering women

So far 2020 has seen a lot. Bushfires in Australia, floods in Indonesia, riots in Delhi and – perhaps the most devastating of them all – Covid-19. This period might go down in history as the year the Earth stood still … But 2020 is delivering positives as well – specifically some stellar initiatives

“Society is facing the greatest threat to global health in a century,” says Anglo American chief executive, Mark Cutifani. “Safety is at the heart of all that we do at Anglo American, and we are doing all that we can to safeguard our people and their families from the spread of Covid-19, while also providing support to our host communities and countries where it’s most needed.”

To this end, Anglo American has implemented an extensive health awareness and support programme called WeCare, specifically to protect the health and well-being of its more than 90 000 employees and full-time contractors around the world.

“As part of this programme, we are helping colleagues better understand how to protect themselves and others from catching the virus, monitoring their health to pick up early symptoms, and to manage their health if they test positive for Covid-19,” adds Cutifani.

Through the WeCare programme, the multinational mining company is also accelerating the fight against gender-based violence (GBV), given the significant increases in cases of this appalling form of violence in many countries during lockdown.

Anik Michaud, group director of corporate relations at Anglo American, says: “Covid-19 has brought such a wide range of unwelcome challenges and exposed many across society. Accelerating our commitment to the global fight against GBV through our WeCare lives-and-livelihoods response programme could not be more appropriate, as many more women and children need safe spaces.

“If we do not act, we risk leaving countless more women and children in harm’s way. We are pleased to be working with a range of organisations who are providing access to support and shelter to those women and children who are most vulnerable during this time. Our operations and host communities operate as an ecosystem and both must be healthy to prosper.”

Through the Anglo American Foundation, the company is contributing US$227 500 (more than R3 992 800) to help the fight against GBV, starting in South Africa.

Anglo American’s contribution is in support of the many organisations working to combat the problem, including the United Nations Women South Africa Multi Country Office (SAMCO) and its various partners.

This donation will be managed directly by the National Shelter Movement of South Africa and donated to shelters that are close to Anglo American’s operations, covering basic and Covid-19 related needs such as transport, telephone airtime, shelter, food, water, sanitation, information, healthcare and psychosocial support.

UN Women SAMCO Representative, Anne Githuku-Shongwe, emphasises the need to ensure that all those at risk of GBV have access to services when they need them: “It is everyone’s business, not just that of government alone or NGOs, but every sector to support those most vulnerable in our society, especially during a time when GBV has reportedly increased during the lockdown.”

Other organisations, such as Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA) – a free platform that supports and guides the personal growth, leadership and career development of women in the South African mining industry – are also uplifting women during these trying times and beyond.

The WiMSA strategy for 2020 is Future FIT (focused, inspired and transformed), allowing the organisation to provide career-guidance resources, networking opportunities and mentorship.

Thabile Makgala, current WiMSA chairperson and executive: Eastern Limb at Implats, says that joining WiMSA first as a member and then having the privilege of leading the organisation has been a humbling experience, filled with highs and lows … but mostly highs.

“The WiMSA network has not only opened doors and provided me with the opportunity to network with exceptional women in the industry, it has also bolstered my self-confidence. It has exposed me to mentors, who I still tap into today and use as my sounding board,” says Makgala.

Briony Liber, committee member and career coach, says: “People who have mentors tend to be more resilient in the workplace because they have someone who can brainstorm with them, give advice and guide them through both good and challenging times.”

This camaraderie enables WiMSA members to be forward-thinking and to offer solutions to improve the performance of women in the workplace. Rabelani Muremela, WiMSA member, CEO and founder of Wo’veralls (which designs female personal protective equipment – PPE), says: “In my own experience working in the mine as a geologist I did not like the overalls that were supplied in industry and felt that they were not convenient for use by women.”

She was proactive in finding a solution and started a business venture to design an overall that is the correct fit. Her design makes it easy for ablution use and solves the difficulty of that women have wearing traditional PPE during their menstrual cycle. She adds: “If women are comfortable and feel confident, it makes it easier to work to their best ability and deal with the challenges the work environment brings.”

Lindy Scott, WiMSA committee member and founder of Amber, a health and safety communication platform, has looked to find solutions for female representation in health and safety communication. She says: “We need to start creating content that represents women working in high-risk areas. Gender roles in the workplace are changing and visual content needs to represent these shifts.”

Makgala says that is an honour to be associated with WiMSA, and even more of a privilege to witness its members’ personal growth and success stories. The WiMSA committee invites all to join the community as they mark their 10-year celebration in 2020, and look ahead towards a brighter, safer and more inclusive future.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many lives, women in mining and the communities they operate in can look forward to a more inclusive and positive future, thanks to initiatives from organisations such as Anglo American and WiMSA.

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