South Africa has one of the highest incidences of domestic violence in the world. To resolve the problem in the workplace, Vodacom has stepped up its efforts to protect its employees from gender-based violence by implementing a new global policy. The policy supports employees affected by domestic violence or abuse because the impact of domestic violence or abuse does not just stop at home – it also has a considerable impact on the work life of those affected.
The support provided by the new policy includes an allocation of 10 days fully paid leave and makes available resources such as free access to the company’s Employee Assistance Program, which provides counselling and life management tools – as well as the 24-hour victim support and counselling call centre, the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Command Centre.
In addition, Vodacom will be providing staff training and awareness on domestic violence and abuse and will offer new safety measures to victims at work, which could include location or schedule transfers and a change of work patterns and contact details where required.
Matimba Mbungela, Chief Human Resources Officer for Vodacom Group said: 'Through this policy, Vodacom will be able to make sure that our workplace can be a safe haven to those women and men who are faced with the struggles of a violent or abusive home environment. It is also one of the ways that Vodacom is working to level the playing field in what is a particularly male-dominated industry by lessening the factors preventing women from effectively participating in the workplace.'
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Vodacom Group concluded: 'Gender-based violence is a societal challenge that requires collaboration from all South Africans, and Africans. Whether young or old, men and women, whatever race, rank, age, gender or social class, and more especially in the digital age, gender-based violence knows no borders. We will continue to champion the fight against gender-based violence in order to shine a light on those who have long been left to be and feel invisible,'
Activism through technology
Vodacom has invested over R6 million towards the infrastructure set-up and running of the national GBV Command Centre, a first of its kind, operating 24/7 and employing professional social workers to support survivors of abuse. To date, the Centre has received more than 300,000 calls and more than 150,000 USSDs and SMSes, showing that it is making a meaningful impact in society as many victims trust and recognise it as an avenue for support and comfort.
Additionally, the Vodacom Foundation GBV Walk, in support of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, which encourages mass mobilisation of communities to promote active participation in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children, has seen significant growth with over 500 people taking part in the walk in November 2018.
To intensify the fight against women and child abuse, Vodacom plans to introduce Nokaneng: an app that provides women and girls (as well as men and boys) with a safe space for information, support and advice on gender-based violence. The app, which is already available in Lesotho, has features that include information on gender-based violence, services and rights, as well as protection tools such as a sound alarm and emergency SMS. The app creates a safe space for conversations, support and advice from counsellors, including those who are linked to the Lapeng Centre – the government’s safe house and a one-stop centre for survivors of gender-based violence.
Keep an eye on Vodacom Now! for more information on Nokageng – including when it will be available in South Africa – and click here for more about Vodacom's initiatives to support those affected by gender violence.
Vodacom is also committed to providing an equal workplace for women. The Women’s Network Forum mentorship programme promotes female leadership and promotion. Female executives at Vodacom take on the role of mentors to high-potential women in junior management roles. The mentees are taken through a mentorship programme for leaders at Wits Business School. Please visit the Vodacom careers website to see what positions we currently have on offer.
The Centre can be reached through various channels:
• by dialing 0800 428 428 or via USSD on *120*7867#.
• A Skype line ‘HelpMeGBV’ for members of the Deaf Community.
• An SMS based line ‘31531’ for persons with disability. (SMS Help to 31531).
The Centre is able to refer calls directly to SAPS (10111) and field Social Workers who respond to GBV Victims.