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Campaign to end sexual violence in mines begins

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Mar 5, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Minerals Council South Africa yesterday launched a campaign to address sexual and gender-based violence and harassment on South Africa's mines and announced a bold target to boost the number of women in the mining industry by 150percent.

The council said that the campaign would complement policies that were already in place, saying that the industry had a responsibility to address the scourge, given the predominance of men.

Titled “Stop abuse of women”, the campaign spells out the potential consequences of abusive action.

Council chief executive Roger Baxter said that the council was investigating setting up industry-level mechanisms for the safe reporting of incidents of violence and harassment, and guidelines to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment for women.

“We encourage all member companies, others in the industry and residents of mining communities and labour sending areas to take action against gender-based violence and abuse in their workplaces and communities and, where they observe any such incidents, not to stand aside but rather to report those incidents and take any other appropriate action,” Roger said.

The mining industry continues to struggle to attract and retain women at all levels of employment.

The council said that currently, women made up 12percent of employees in the mining industry, signalling that South Africa lags compared to its peers in Australia and Canada where women representation was 17percent and 16percent respectively.

Vedanta Zinc chief executive Deshnee Naidoo, who is leading the campaign, said that the modernisation of the mining industry would level the playing field for women.

“The initial target on the table is 30percent for women participation by 2025 in mining,” said Naidoo, adding that the industry was more geared for automation.

“Violence against women in mining can take place in underground shafts, change rooms, personnel conveyances and empty or dark areas and passages.”

Livhuwani Mammburu, spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, said while the campaign was laudable, its timing was questionable.

“Why is the council launching a campaign against sexual violence after so many years?” Mammburu asked, adding that sexual violence was rife in the industry.

“We welcome any initiative that will address sexual harassment, because it is rife not only in the mining industry but in the construction industry as well. We also want mining companies to provide protective gear designed for women,” said Mammburu.

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