De Beers Group, in partnership with United Nations Women, announced the launch of a three-year capacity-building programme to improve 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. 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.
Tailored specifically for each country, the programme will be delivered with local implementation partners and focus on regions that have high levels of unemployment and where formal job opportunities are limited. It has been designed to ensure ongoing sustainability 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.
A wide variety of micro-businesses will be eligible to participate in the programme, spanning retail, hospitality, agriculture, catering, produce, manufacturing and education.
De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver 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.”
He added, “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.”
She further noted, “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.”
De Beers said that the programme is part 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.
In addition to the capacity-building programme for women micro-entrepreneurs in southern Africa, De Beers Group is 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. 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.
De Beers said that as a UN Women HeForShe thematic champion, it 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.
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’ – the UN Women’s vision for a gender equal world.
De Beers stated that over the past 12 months, it has doubled its appointment rate of women into senior positions, with 51 per cent of new senior hires being women. 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 said, “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.”