Sep 27, 2018

De Beers & UN Women to Launch Support Programme for Women Entrepreneurs in Southern Africa

De Beers Group  has partnered with United Nations (UN) Women  to   launch   a three-year “capacity-building” programme with a view to improving the livelihoods of more than 1,200 women micro-entrepreneurs in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

“The programme is designed to equip women micro-entrepreneurs with business and management skills to build their confidence and capacity to operate and grow successful small businesses,” De Beers announced. “It will focus on providing training to enhance understanding of business concepts, including accessing markets, increasing market share, generating income, creating jobs, and supporting effective decision-making, communication and negotiation skills.”

The programme which is planned to be implemented through local partners in each country,  will also be tailored and adapted according to the specifics of each state. De Beers says the focus of the programme will be on regions that “have high levels of unemployment and where formal job opportunities are limited”.

The aim, De Beers said, was to ensure “ongoing sustainability” which will be achieved by  building the capacity of locally-based trainers to understand the specific challenges faced by women micro-entrepreneurs, build access to peer support networks and support the programme participants on an ongoing basis to implement the skills gained.

The programme has also been designed in a manner in which a wide variety of micro-businesses will be eligible to participate in the programme. These will cover the areas of  retail, hospitality, agriculture, catering, produce, manufacturing and education.

Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “I am delighted to launch this programme as part of De Beers Group’s commitment to stand with women and girls around the world, especially in our diamond producing countries where women play a crucial role in supporting their local communities. When you support women business owners, you support a community more broadly as women are proven to reinvest more of their income back into the community and to actively support the creation of jobs for others. Through these programmes, we hope to help equip women entrepreneurs with the skills, training and confidence to build successful and sustainable businesses.”

Anne Shongwe, UN Women Representative, South Africa Multi-Country Office, said: “The partnership and programme aims to complement national efforts on job creation and economic empowerment of women by supporting women micro-entrepreneurs through capacity building that is customised to address their daily challenges in practical ways. Typically, micro-enterprises are informal and survivalist and women manage them as part of their households. While some may have basic technical skills like weaving or baking, most lack the business skills to understand their business environment and run sustainable enterprises. Investing in women’s economic empowerment, particularly with women in the informal sector, sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Investing in the capacity development of women micro-entrepreneurs leads to those women having higher incomes, better access to and control over resources, and greater security as they gain financial independence.”

The programme marks the first anniversary of De Beers Group’s three-year partnership with UN Women,  which  includes a US$ 3 million investment to advance women and girls in De Beers Group’s diamond producing countries, announced in September last year. 

De Beers Group is also providing scholarships to young women and girls in Canada to pursue studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). “To date, eight university scholarships have been awarded, with the aim of a further 19 multi-year scholarships by 2020,” the Company said. “De Beers Group also sponsored a summer science camp at the University of Waterloo for 13 and 14 year old girls from indigenous communities near the company’s Gahcho Kué mine, which included visits to Google’s HQ and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.”

Further, the De Beers Group is also a UN Women HeForShe Thematic Champion, and, as one  has also committed to  achieving parity in the appointment of women and men into senior leadership roles in its own organisation, as well as ensuring the company’s brands are a positive force for gender equality through all its marketing campaigns.

“Over the past 12 months, De Beers Group doubled its appointment rate of women into senior positions, with 51 per cent of new senior hires being women,” the Company reported. “A set of new inclusive marketing guidelines has also been developed, and highly successful campaigns have been run by De Beers Group’s consumer brands Forevermark and De Beers Jewellers, featuring real and remarkable women.”

Cleaver commented: “We are proud of the progress we’ve made over the past year and have been extremely encouraged by the shared enthusiasm for our goals across De Beers Group and the wider diamond industry. We are still early on our journey and are determined to stand with women and girls in the pursuit of true gender equality.”

HeForShe is a UN Women solidarity movement for gender equality. UN Women is the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, with the goal of accelerating the achievement of ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ – UN Women’s vision for a gender equal world.