Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be a scourge in South Africa and across the world with cases rising in the past two years. Leading global miner, Anglo American Platinum, has seen this first hand, witnessing an increase in GBV incidences in the host communities of its operations during Covid-19 lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021. In response, the company’s long-standing Living with Dignity programme focused on supporting the victims and survivors, ensuring they had a safe place to stay as well as access to professional services.
Fighting gender-based violence
The underrepresentation and erasure of women in the mining industries has occurred for decades. Despite some progress, the industry wholly recognises that there is still a lot to be done. As a global leader in the sector, Anglo American Platinum has taken on the task of operationalising inclusion and diversity within and beyond the mine gate. At a grassroots level, the group supports various non-profit organisations that work to support GBV survivors. Anglo American Platinum extended its focus on gender equality and GBV when it established the Living with Dignity programme in 2019, which aims to eliminate GBV and was piloted in-house, after baseline studies identified the extent of GBV within the group.
Living with Dignity was incorporated into the group’s WeCare initiative launched at the start of the pandemic in 2020. WeCare focuses on protecting the lives and livelihoods of stakeholders that exist at different elements of the organisation’s value chain through the provision of support in four areas: physical health, mental wellbeing, community response (including food security), and the Living with Dignity initiative.
Creating safe spaces for GBV survivors
One of the key focus areas of Living with Dignity is survivor support. Survivors, and their families, need professional support services such as social workers, and a safe place to stay after they experience a GBV incident.
There are numerous victim empowerment centres and shelters in the country, but many are poorly equipped. They may be a safe place, but offer little in the way of comfort, access to washing facilities, and other services including data and airtime. Survivors also need access to practical support such as social workers, to assist with mediation between partners, facilitate a return to their home, or find a way to support themselves and a new place to stay.
When the programme was established, an Anglo American Platinum team collaborated with the National Shelter Movement of South Africa – an NPO established in 2008, which runs 98 shelters in South Africa.
Through the Living with Dignity programme, 20 victim empowerment centres have been supported and five of those were refurbished and furnished. These victim empowerment centres are part of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Department of Social Development’s programmes to support GBV survivors with information, emotional, and practical support as well as referral to professional support services such as shelters and social workers.
Living with Dignity refurbishes 20 centres
The Living with Dignity team visited some of the victim empowerment services and shelters and identified 20 centres and shelters in their area of operations in need of support.
The Living with Dignity initiative donated two houses and three mobile units, furnished the centres with basic furniture, beds, and couches, appliances such as fridges, stoves, and TVs as well as supplies that includes bedding, hand sanitisers, food, data and airtime, and toys for children.
Refurbishments also include complete renovations, if necessary. For example, the centre in Mogalakwena was infested with termites, and shower and ablution facilities had to be built. Housing may also be supplied, depending on the circumstances. For example, in the Rustenburg and Amandelbult area near Thabazimbi in Limpopo, two empty mine houses were donated to the programme and converted into shelters.
By the end of November 2021, 20 victim empowerment centres and shelters had been refurbished and handed over in the Twickenham, Der Brochen, Polokwane, Mogalakwena, Amandelbult, and Rustenburg areas.
Shelters and centres see up to 25 survivors (women and men who have suffered GBV violence as well as children) in a month. In addition the Phokeng Trauma Centre in Rustenburg sees anything from 100 to 450 people a month for GBV incidents and counselling.
Combating GBV beyond everyday incidents
Anglo American Platinum’s victim empowerment centre and shelter support programme offers practical support which is needed in communities. However, it does not address the root causes of GBV, which is essential if South Africa is to eliminate the scourge.
Anglo American Platinum believes that interfaith healers in communities are ideally positioned to launch discussions on GBV in communities, as well as find ways to combat it. Interfaith leaders are seen as legitimate sources of authority by community members, and they often understand the community sensitivities that inform the prevalence of GBV in their specific communities. Interfaith groups encompass interdenominational and intercultural groupings like pastors and traditional healers.
The group’s work with interfaith healers started in 2016, when the Mapela Faith Group comprising pastors from different denominations was set up. Anglo American Platinum supported the programme to facilitate discussion, conferences, and interventions to strengthen the community, such as supporting skills development to increase income-earning opportunities.
The discussions with the Faith Group on issues relating to community development and cohesion led to the design of programmes in Education (ECD, leadership and character building, and a teaching programme) that were piloted at Hans Masibe Primary School in Hans Village in Mapela.
The school, under the leadership of Principal Peter Mkhabela, welcomed, endorsed, and participated in the programme that yielded into whole school development, reduced social ills, and improved learning outcomes. As a result of the significant impact, the neighbouring schools and the Mapela Circuit Manager requested that the programme be extended. A further five schools were added to the programme in Mapela area, as well as in Amandelbult and the Far Eastern Limb (FEL) operations between 2016 and 2020.
The focus, which has been on encouraging learners to remain in school, has led to improved academic results. For example, the Mmatedu Secondary School improved its 20% matric pass rate in 2018 to an 82% matric pass rate in 2020.
As GBV is a key challenge in communities, interfaith leaders have also established projects to help GBV survivors, including home and victim empowerment site gardens where survivors can grow vegetables and fruit to ensure food security. Sewing and knitting projects give survivors a way to learn skills and earn an income. These are located in Twickenham and Der Brochen and more people want to enter the programmes than can immediately be accommodated.
Interfaith leaders have also been trained as counsellors to offer support to victims, survivors, and their families in the community.
In addition to practical support, it is hoped that talking about GBV will reduce the taboo, encouraging more people to open up and feel safe to report incidences, and find ways to combat it.
Responding to the call
Anglo American Platinum is continually reviewing the programme to see where more support can be offered and how the established initiatives are progressing. The CSI team partners with NPOs that manage and monitor the projects and have an ability to quickly adapt to meet on-the-ground needs. The Foundation, which supports the programmes, has approved projects in less than a week, as it did with the WeCare programme.
Other initiatives supported include a R30 million donation to the South African President’s Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund, which was launched in February 2021.
Although GBV is prevalent in South Africa, where the majority of Anglo’s operations are, it is a global problem. The group is looking at rolling out Living with Dignity in other countries in which it operates and has begun this process with baseline studies in Brazil and discussions in Peru. The intention is for Living with Dignity to be adopted, in some form, in all their areas of operation.