Bothwell Mazarura reveals why the fight against gender-based violence is so important to him
The violence incidents experienced by some Kumba employees during lockdown spurred Bothwell into action.
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During lockdown in 2020, the management of Kumba Iron Ore became aware that some staff members were exposed to higher levels of gender-based violence in their homes than ever before. The extent of the situation was made starkly apparent when a number of incidents involving Kumba employees were reported.
“These incidents rocked the company, and we realised we had to do something about it, and do it soon,” says Bothwell Mazarura, Kumba CFO.
Kumba has a zero tolerance for any kind of abuse and has run programmes around bullying and harassment in the workplace in the past. The iron miner has also created awareness on gender-based violence, or violence prevention. “But the escalation during last year was quite alarming, so we embarked on a campaign through the whole of the Anglo American Group to address these issues,” says Bothwell.
Previous interventions had seen women championing the issue and marching at the mines to create awareness of their plight, but Bothwell felt it was just as important for men to stand up as equal partners in the fight.
“It’s about time that we – as men – take responsibility,” says Bothwell. “We need to start showing that we are deeply concerned about GBV, that we are committed to doing something about it. So that’s when I started an initiative in Kumba for men to have conversations about gender-based violence.”
Along with Kumba CEO Themba Mkhwanazi and executive head of HR Virginia Tyobeka, they hosted a webinar for the company to show that its leadership takes gender-based violence seriously.
“In that webinar, I noted that when I am asked to think of situations when I’ve encountered gender-based violence, I can’t think of just one. I have several examples. It’s an indictment on society and on our lives, that I have three or four stories that I have personally experienced.
“If you multiply that by everyone else, it means that this has always been prevalent – never mind what we started to see during lockdown.”
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The Kumba campaign
The campaign within Kumba kicked off with a conversation, facilitated by Brothers for Life, an organisation that promotes positive male norms and campaigns for men to take a stand against GBV. Six senior executives, including Bothwell, were joined by a professional chef in a MasterChef setting, to explore positive male norms.
“The setting was deliberate. We wanted to have men in the kitchen, cooking, to try to break down the stereotypes around spaces belonging to women in the home. We were dressed in black and held an open, authentic and unscripted conversation while we cooked – opening up about how we personally feel about gender-based violence and the issues related to it.”
The executives spoke about what they could do to prevent it, and what they think the impediments are to overcoming the challenges of gender based and domestic violence in homes and even how gender inequality plays out in boardrooms. A video was created from the event, and it was shown to everyone in Kumba, which employs 13,000 people, the majority of which are men. The aim was to get men talking about the issues. And it seems to be having an effect.
“It’s starting to gain traction,” says Bothwell. “The men in our organisation aren’t just talking, they are doing things in their communities. The most important thing for us is that it’s men leading the conversation, because that means that the whole population will be involved, instead of one half, and that will make a huge difference. And now we’re looking at real practical things we can do as the next step.”
One of the programmes they are planning targets young boys in schools, getting them to think about what it means to be a man, and breaking down stereotypes that men are required to be tough, aggressive and dominant.
“We will be targeting boys because that’s when the stereotypes develop,” Bothwell explains. “If we can intervene at that age in a positive way, and demonstrate a different approach to being a man, hopefully they will come to understand that women are their equals, and must be treated with dignity and respect. I am very excited and passionate about this initiative.”
Bothwell has always felt strongly about women’s right to feel secure in their homes and workplaces, but as a father of teenage girls, he’s even more aware of the dangers that society poses to women. He says he is literally filled with terror at them exploring the outside world.
One of the things that spurred him into action at Kumba was asking himself the question, “How can we play our part in ensuring that women can live their lives fully and without fear?”
He hopes he can inspire more male executives to champion this important cause, to help break down stereotypes and to champion the eradication of gender-based violence.