|Remarks by Varda Shine and Rosalind Kainyah, De Beers Group|
Invest in Women. Invest in the World.
It is a real privilege to be here tonight on behalf of De Beers to support the work of the International Women's Health Coalition, and to share with you our commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls.
De Beers shares the aspirations of the Coalition. As a company, we consider it our duty to play a part in improving the well-being of the people in the communities and in the countries in which we work. This is linked to one of our key values which we are sharing with the Coalition, which is 'shaping the future.'
I see or hear evidence every day on how the work we are doing in diamonds and diamonds revenue helps shape the future of countries by funding schools, hospitals, medical centers, and hospices, ensuring that more than five million people have access to appropriate healthcare worldwide. I see this because we are dedicated to making a positive impact in the communities in which we operate. De Beers is an African company. 83 percent of our 19,000 staff are from Southern Africa, the region worst hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, where around one in five people has HIV/AIDS.
In South Africa, and together with our government partners in Namibia and Botswana, we have a comprehensive program in prevention, treatment, care, and support, including free antiretroviral treatment for all HIV positive employees and their families-a program which we are now extending into the communities where our mines are.
Women are the backbone of these communities and for this reason De Beers has committed $1.5 million over the next three years to a community-based HIV/AIDS program, specifically targeting women in southern Africa, where the women are likely to be between six and eight times more likely to be infected than men. Of course, we believe it is quite right that a company in the position of De Beers should give as much as it can directly to the communities in which we operate.
It is also right that we should do everything we can to ensure a lasting impact of our actions. For this reason, in 2005, we began the funding of two African graduates to study for masters degrees in Public Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. The first two scholars of this program, Gloria, from Ethiopia, and Akem, from Tanzania, are about to graduate and I am delighted both of them have joined us here. Please do take the time to meet them for, as we believe, the provision of health is truly the key in achieving Africa's promise. You will be meeting two women who have the skills not only to make it happen but also to inspire future generations of African women to do the same. I am sure you will join me in wishing both of them luck. Thank you very much.
As Varda has said, IWHC is the embodiment of some of the key values and aspirations that we at De Beers hold dear. Partnerships are also very much a part of the De Beers nature and character. Partnerships with governments, with our clients, and with organizations like IWHC.
The Oppenheimer family, represented here today by Jennifer Oppenheimer, have themselves taken a personal interest in and have personally supported the work of IWHC. Nicky Oppenheimer, the Chairman of De Beers, has always instilled in us as a business the importance of supporting and working with leaders and groups implementing their own solutions to challenges they face in their own countries. It is therefore natural that De Beers would support IWHC—an organization that believes in and practices the same principle by using its energy to ensure than women and girls in their own communities are in a position to do what is truly best for themselves and their families.
In practice this means listening to the people of those communities in which we both work. Not only supporting projects that might help women earn a fair wage for example, but making sure that the benefits of this go beyond money, affording them a sense of independence, empowerment, and confidence—something that can be handed down to young women generation after generation.
As a woman I am very proud that De Beers is supporting IWHC. Almost as proud as I am as an African to be working for De Beers. I am proud because my father said, "I have seen what diamonds can mean for Africa," and because De Beers as a company believes and practices the principle that Africa needs a hand up, not a hand out. I have seen more than a glimpse of Africa developing to its full potential. I believe that being here, you, the individuals and companies represented in this room, are demonstrating that you are not satisfied with a tiny glimpse. You, like us at De Beers, are finding new ways to grow potential by supporting the health and rights of young girls worldwide.
I hope that our support of IWHC would encourage and inspire other companies to do the same. At De Beers we call this `living up to diamonds.' Thank you.