Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

Blog Gender-based violence is everyone's problem

As part of our ongoing series to help raise awareness around the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Barrick’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Alanna Heath, has written this blog on why it was important to her that Barrick partner with White Ribbon.

When Barrick decided to partner with White Ribbon in 2012 on a gender-based violence prevention initiative, I specifically asked to be a part of the project. I wanted to work for the kind of company that would make a genuine effort to address a problem as serious as gender-based violence.

From the outset, I was eager to explore what kind of partnership a mining company could have with White Ribbon, one of the most respected organizations in the world in the area of gender-based violence prevention. And I remember how proud I felt when this partnership crystalized. It's tempting for companies, when faced with reputational crises, to engage in partnerships or donate money to a cause for "PR" purposes. But what Barrick did is different. We rolled up our sleeves and asked “What can we really do about it? How can we change?” And then we partnered with the kind of organization that could help us understand the issues better, challenge our approach and hold us to account.

Gender-based violence is everyone’s problem. It should never have come as a surprise to us that these issues would impact our operations. We committed to working with White Ribbon to raise awareness and drive prevention — and that's exactly what we have done.

At our Lumwana mine in Zambia, for example, White Ribbon worked with our employees to deliver financial literacy classes. They recognized early on that conflict could arise between couples around management of household finances. At our Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, White Ribbon has worked with Barrick people to promote discussion around the importance of diversity in the workforce and the need to ensure a more inclusive and safe workplace for everyone. White Ribbon has even exported its signature "Walk A Mile In Her Shoes" campaign to our host communities in northeastern Nevada. If you can’t imagine miners marching the streets of rural Nevada in high-heel shoes for a good cause, I invite you to take a look through some photos and learn more about the walk here.

In my role as Barrick’s Vice President of Government Affairs, my work touches on human rights in a large way. I engage with the Canadian Government if there are allegations of human rights violations against Barrick, as there have been in the past in places such as Papua New Guinea. I’m also Chair of the Mining Association of Canada’s International Social Responsibility Committee, which represents member companies with operations in other countries. Through this channel we’ve had many discussions on initiatives that the mining industry can undertake to ensure it's doing all that it can to respect human rights.

The idea that the mining industry builds large mines usually in remote areas, employing mostly men, and doesn’t take into account potential gender-based implications has no place in the 21st century. Barrick’s work with White Ribbon to address and prevent gender-based violence in the communities where we operate, I believe, has made us an industry forerunner in this field.

I hope that Barrick’s experience partnering with White Ribbon has raised awareness of the role that the modern mining industry must have in addressing gender-based violence. I can say with full conviction that our work through this partnership stems from Barrick’s sincere commitment to do the right thing. I’d like to see us continue to work to address this and other difficult issues in our host communities, with similar openness for change.