A new program for employees of Barrick’s Lumwana mine in Zambia is raising awareness about the importance of financial planning and the benefits of husbands and wives working together to manage family finances.
Learning how to budget, plan and save has a significant impact on employees’ ability to take charge of their lives and build a more secure future. It also affects their well-being at work and at home.
Conversely, an inability to effectively manage household finances and control debt are sources of marital tension and potential triggers for domestic violence by husbands against their wives. This is true of most communities around the world, and Lumwana is no exception.
“Many men at Lumwana are working in steady, good-paying jobs for the first time in their lives,” said Mwaka Mulenga, Community Health and Welfare Manager at Lumwana. “They come from a patriarchal culture and feel it’s their money, and they sometimes spend it on frivolous things. They are not necessarily aware that this is not the way to do things. It’s my sincere hope that the financial literacy training being offered will help change mind-sets and that more couples will manage their finances together.”
The program, run by the non-governmental organization (NGO) White Ribbon, is mandatory for all Lumwana employees. It is also offered to employees’ spouses in a community setting, which allows for training that addresses language barriers and different levels of education.
“This is an awareness-raising exercise. We want to compel them to sit down as a couple and look at how they manage their resources. We hope they begin to plan together and share resources.”
Participants spend three half-day sessions learning basic tenets of financial planning and wealth creation. They also learn to understand and challenge cultural precepts that contribute to inequalities between men and women, and the importance of equitable access and control over family finances.
White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls. In 2012, Barrick signed a four-year agreement with the NGO to provide gender-based violence prevention programming at Barrick mines and host communities in Zambia, Papua New Guinea and Nevada.
“Barrick is taking a proactive approach, investing in its host communities and its own labor force to prevent gender-based violence instead of reacting to the problem after the fact,” said Todd Minerson, Executive Director of White Ribbon.
At Lumwana, White Ribbon worked with the site’s community relations team to identify the main catalysts of gender-based violence in Lumwana Township, a community of 7,000 located on mine grounds that is home to many of the operation’s employees and their families. Their research revealed a lack of financial literacy skills coupled with deeply ingrained preconceptions about the predominant role of men when it comes to the management of family finances.
White Ribbon worked with local practitioners to ensure training sessions were culturally appropriate and tailored to the circumstances of Lumwana employees. A pilot launch of the program took place in the late spring and early summer. At the beginning of the program, participants completed questionnaires about their financial planning knowledge and attitudes and behaviors related to the management of family finances. At the end of the program, the participants took the questionnaire again, allowing organizers to measure changes in knowledge and attitudes.
“This is new ground for us and possibly the world,” Minerson said.
Participants were not required to put their names on the questionnaires. The results from the pilot sessions are currently being analyzed and will be shared with the participants, mine management and other key stakeholders in the coming months.
The initial pilot sessions began in late May. Namwiinga Bubala, a long-time consultant in Zambia on gender issues, led the sessions on gender awareness and equality. During one session, she ran a simple yet revealing exercise about control over family resources. She divided the men and women and asked them to create a list of family resources such as money, cars and land. Then they were asked to identify who has more control and access to these resources, men or women.
“Open your minds and hearts and be truthful,” Bubala said before the exercise began.
The women gathered near the front of the room. “Who controls the money?” one woman asked. “Men,” the rest of the group responded in near unison. And so it went. Even their time, the women decided, was controlled by their husbands. “We have more time,” one woman said, “but we must account for how we spend it to men.”
Meanwhile, the men, clad in the fluorescent safety vests and steel-toe boots that are mandatory for all mine employees, discussed their list in the back of the room. Like the women, they agreed that men have a high level of control over family finances. However, when it came to control over time, a debate ensued. One man noted how little free time men have relative to their spouses, but another countered that men nevertheless control how they use their time. Eventually, the men decided they had a high degree of control over their time while women had a medium degree of control over theirs. But before they could mark this on their chart, one man felt compelled to speak up and said, “Let’s be realistic, most men do not have to explain to women how they use their time, but women do.”
When the group reassembled, Daphne Mwale, a resident of Lumwana Town, shared the women’s results. “Welcome to this crucial presentation,” she said, and then she proceeded through the list, receiving polite applause when she was done. When the men’s representative completed his presentation, however, he received a standing ovation, which Mwale did not take sitting down. “Why was there a standing ovation for a man?” she said, insisting that she also receive one, which she did with laughter and raucous applause.
While the mood was light at times, the message was not.
“This is an awareness-raising exercise,” Bubala said. “We want to compel them to sit down as a couple and look at how they manage their resources. We hope they begin to plan together and share resources.”
Kennedy Musonda, an expert on financial planning who runs his own business consultancy in Zambia, led the financial literacy sessions.
“When salaries increase, problems can start,” he told the group. “To create wealth, you must manage expenses accordingly.”
Saving money and investing wisely in products that appreciate in value, such as land, were key themes. Musonda advised participants to set aside 10 percent of their income and put it into a separate bank account that cannot be easily accessed. He explained the difference between good debt, borrowing money to purchase an asset that generates a return, and bad debt, borrowing money to purchase something with no payback.
Musonda also stressed the importance of budgeting and record keeping.
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure,” he said. “Everyone who creates wealth accounts for their money.”
The participants appeared to take the lessons to heart. Martin Mulambya, a maintenance supervisor at Lumwana, said he will work together with his wife to think more systematically about budgeting.
“You have to think about the future, and save for the children and for retirement,” said Mulambya, a father of four.
Lukas Banda, who works in the Lumwana Safety and Health Department, said he will be more collaborative and share family finances with his wife. “Previously, I used to be a bully,” he said. “I used to believe it was my money. Now, it’s our money.”