AECI adopts gender mainstreaming as an important contributor to the wider sustainable development goals

AECI adopts gender mainstreaming as an important contributor to the wider sustainable development goals

Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t really responsible if it does not align to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For most companies it might be unrealistic to expect their CSR strategy to meet all 17 SDGs as outlined by the UN, however what is possible is to centre their strategy around specific targets or transition their existing CSR activities until they commit holistically to all 17 SDGs.

Acting as a template for creating opportunities to develop and empower communities, the SDGs are wider goals that every organisation can aspire to contribute to at a smaller scale. One goal that we at Business Engage believe should be part of every company’s strategy is Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

This year, at our recent 8th annual Gender Mainstreaming Awards (GMAs), we were proud to honour AECI as a company that truly implements their gender mainstreaming activities with a wider view to the SDGs, supporting women empowerment in the communities they operate in. AECI was awarded in the following categories:

  • 1st place for Economic Empowerment Award
  • 1st place for Empowerment of Women in the Community
  • 4th place for Women on Boards Award
  • 4th place for Women Empowerment in the Workplace Award 

How AECI supports gender equality and mainstreaming

AECI has incorporated the SDGs in its sustainable development practices and processes, allowing them to measure and report their impact on a much broader international scale. The programmes are currently aligned with and contribute toward the achievement of six of the SDGs related directly to people’s human rights in terms of equal access to basic resources such as food and water, income, healthcare and education.

For gender equality, their targets include eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls, valuing unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring the full participation of women in the economy, and equal access for them to resources such as reproductive healthcare. The principle of gender equality is incorporated in all three AECI SED funds and their programmes promote the empowerment of women and girls.

AECI commits to five strategic partners to help achieve the above targets:

  1. Empowering the Girl Child programme, in partnership with Child Welfare South Africa.
  1. Connect-Ed which aims to help reduce teenage pregnancies, STIs and HIV infection among learners by empowering young girls to make better informed decisions related to their sexual health and helping educators to provide better support for them.
  1. Unjani Clinics where more than 128 060 patients received primary healthcare services at in mining regions across the country. AECI enabled nurses to become owners of clinics and to provide employment for others. The communities’ appreciation for the nurses, and the good quality but affordable healthcare services offered at the clinics, are most rewarding. 
  1. Siyabonga Africa, a skills development and income generation programme for women. 
  1. WWWC, a group of four cooperatives registered with women as majority owners including; Success Arts and Craft Cooperative 81% women ownership, Ladies Future Poultry Cooperative 100% women ownership, Umanyano Agriculture Production Cooperative 60% women ownership, and Environ Care Management Systems 60% women ownership.

AECI’s three-year plan for economic empowerment of women to improve representation further at every occupational level by race and gender has proven effective and in line with EAP statistics. Most importantly, they have proven high commitment to gender equality not just at the corporate level, but well into the communities they are part of.

Testimonial by Candice Watson; Group Executive for Human Capital at AECI

 Gender mainstreaming is not only an economic imperative or policy for us at AECI but it’s a social imperative and the way in which we bring our values to life. Our values around being a responsible corporate citizen, really give us the opportunity through various projects for community development, to give back economic dignity and rights of women.

Inclusivity is one of our key values at AECI and we are so proud to be partnering with organisations like Business Engage and the opportunities that they’ve given us to really make significant inroads in empowering the communities in which we operate.

AECI is committed to creating an environment that embraces race and gender equality, diversity and transformation. We recognise the importance of achieving a sustainable economic environment in SA through meaningful participation of previously disadvantaged groups in the mainstream economy. AECI and its subsidiary companies support the SA government B-BBEE and EE initiatives and transformation goals. We will continue to invest in the development of our personnel to take up key management roles within the organisation, as well as enterprise development opportunities.

"At AECI gender mainstreaming is not only a policy, it is the way in which we bring our values to life," Candice Watson, Group Executive for Human Capital at AECI.

Gender mainstreaming is part of community development

Our partners at this year’s GMAs have shared their sentiments around gender mainstreaming is part of community building. Khethiwe Nkuna, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Inclusion and Diversity Lead at Accenture Africa had this to say:

“It’s critical to be aware that transformation in its sense is much broader than an organisation itself and the internal programmes that an organisation has. It is our responsibility as practitioners in transformation, practitioners in corporate social responsibility to actually roll up our sleeves and go into the communities to identify opportunities to make an impact.
One of the critical components as well is around enterprise and supplier development and diversifying our supply chain and taking accountability in developing the township economy by integrating communities and businesses that are based in communities into our enterprise and supplier development. Of course, this is not easy, and it’s not about chequebook charity. This is really about transforming and building the economy in the spirit of our BB-BEE legislation which aims to actually facilitate meaningful participation in our economy of all South Africans.”

Impact follows a clear purpose

In the end, the impact is a result of a strong drive and purpose. When you create that “why” within your organisation – why you are doing it and define the impact you want to see on the ground – you start with a clear lens. I encourage organisations to connect to those that are moving forward in this space. Gender mainstreaming takes a lot of effort especially in the early stages but the benefits are huge. Business Engage has a platform for learning best practice and we invite organisations to come and join us on this journey, get connected and learn and grow.