A male-led initiative designed to raise awareness about their role building healthy societies

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CCBSA continues with its ‘Men of Honour’ social awareness initiative for its second consecutive year

JOHANNESBURG, 27 August 2020 – While South Africa grapples with improving the lives of women who are the most vulnerable to socio-economic decline, quite often an important piece of the puzzle is left out of the picture due to longstanding tensions and fear.

As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month, women across the nation are urged to take advantage of leadership and business opportunities. However, the remnants of toxic patriarchy remain in the hearts and minds of South African men, the ones who are often guilty of subtle and increasingly more aggressive attacks against women at work, at home and in communities.

In an urgent response to the rising incidences of gender-based violence (GBV) across the country, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) Managing Director Velaphi Ratshefola in 2019 established, what is now known as the CCBSA Men of Honour Initiative, a platform where the men at CCBSA meet and discuss issues that impact them as well as ho to be better men.

“Through ‘Men of Honour’, we have defined a space where men can engage freely, honestly and consistently around the issues that impact them. It is also a safe space where me can talk about their role or complacency in the scurge of gender based violence (GBV)BV. As CCBSA, we recognise that we have an opportunity to reach and transform the lives of men, so that they begin to understand their biases, their understanding of the hostile environment women find themselves in daily and most importantly, how through robust engagement, we can become more aware and compassionate towards women both at home and at work,” says Ratshefola. Ratshefola added that women’s rights are human rights and our society will be safe, only if women feel safe.

Ratshefola notes that the manufacturing industry is particularly prone to being male dominated, with outdated perceptions about women which hinder the diversity needed for a more equitable society, hence his passion to reset and inculcate a strong culture of diversity, inclusion and the advancement of women at CCBSA.

“Since the company’s inception in 2016, CCBSA took a bold step to contribute meaningfully to the country’s ideal to be an inclusive and transformed organisation. The transformation strategy included bold initiatives to increase gender parity in the company, supply chain and to increase black ownership. Since then, the company has delivered on most, if not all of these objectives, including the appointment of strong and accomplished women in critical executive and senior leadership positions in our organisation,” he says. To date, these combined efforts have resulted in the company now having a 40.5% representation of women in senior management and 44% and 33.2% in the middle and junior management levels respectively.

In the last year alone, through the fund, the company transformed R3.4 billion of its Preferential Procurement spend in support of 805 black-owned suppliers, of whom 413 were black female owned suppliers

The idea behind Men of Honour was created to work with men to address prejudices against women and many other issues that men struggle with, including their emotional well-being, health and common concerns about the future. In these sessions, men, can share their personal stories and ask questions from guest experts in the medical and psychology fields.

The focus of the 2020 workshop was The Economic and Personal Effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was held online earlier this year. Through platforms such as the internal network or video conferencing technology, numerous sessions were hosted, with an average of 300 men at each workshop and over 500 people in the last session.

“Amongst others, the common concerns over job security and health, were other recurring issues, such as manhood being challenged when men are led by women,” Ratshefola says. “Men of Honour has become a haven where men become more aware of their thoughts and actions towards their female colleagues, with many reflecting that it had also impacted their roles as husbands, fathers and uncles significantly.”

Through the insightful engagements, many of the men admitted that their past actions were a result of how they grew up and the society in which they lived – most were often unaware that certain actions were offensive to begin with. Throughout the year, each region committed to continue running the programme, to ensure that they continue to learn and grow as disciplined and respectful members of an inclusive society.

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