On 12 November SWHAP welcomed over 160 delegates from 12 countries to the annual two day conference in Harare Zimbabwe. The conference provided an opportunity to discuss and exchange experiences and to explore the theme of “It’s your health: engagement through workplace wellness”. Conference participants looked at how the ownership of health and wellness at a personal level as well as by companies and unions could be promoted and how addressing issues such as gender, stigma, discrimination, HIV vulnerability within families, communities and key groups could encourage the engagement of all parties in workplace programmes. These were important deliberations as strategic HIV and wellness programmes that address the health and well-being concerns of all employees lead to increased employee engagement which can improve motivation, morale, commitment and performance.
The opening keynote address was made by Joyce Nonde Simukoko and Devine Ndhlukula. In her opening address Joyce Simukoko Nonde, former President of the Federation of Free Trade Unions in Zambia (FFTUZ), described the important advocacy role of unions in ensuring that no one is left behind in the HIV response. Whilst Devine Ndhlukula, Managing Director of Securico, noted that employee’s health is something that companies need to see as a crucial part of internal operations and a responsibility they must take on. She also spoke of the benefits her company had realised as a result of mentorship received from Sandvik during the Sandvik Supply Chain Programme.
Panel discussions with perspectives from unions, employers and programme implementers looked at ways in which unions could leverage on past successes in safeguarding the rights of employees to promote personal responsibility for health and wellness at workplaces. The panellists also discussed practical activities that wellness committees and peer educators could implement to promote responsibility for personal and collective health and wellness. Additionally it was noted that employees should not be seen in isolation of the communities that they live in and that there was value in businesses taking health and wellness activities to these communities.
SWHAP Achievement Award nominees show-cased wellness programmes addressing HIV, communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as lifestyle issues affecting employees and their families. Presentations from Sodeico Manpower, Scanlink and Sandvik Mining South Africa demonstrated innovative ideas that are allowing companies to improve workplace wellness participation rates whilst also benefitting local communities. UD Trucks revealed initiatives being run by the company to promote male employees’ uptake of healthcare services. Sandvik Mining and Construction Zimbabwe showed how their supply chain programme had mentored 10 companies to implement HIV and wellness policies reaching over 5200 workers since 2011.
Achievement awards were presented at a gala dinner on the first day of the conference. Click on the pictures to read about the awards ceremony and the inspirational moving story of Tendayi Kateketa Westerhoff who chronicled her journey from testing to disclosure and advocacy.
Day 2 of the conference focused on gender and getting input from the workplaces for the development of a gender and diversity mainstreaming tool. This followed an evaluation of SWHAP in 2013 which revealed that while current HIV and wellness programmes had some elements of gender incorporated into activities and interventions, approaches were not always consistent or integrated within other core areas of business.
Gender in the workplace affects all the core areas of business and left unaddressed can put both companies and communities in socio-economic vulnerability to issues like HIV, violence and poverty. This affects the bottom line of business including the day-to-day operations and sustainability of companies. The gender and mainstreaming tool should assist workplaces in a more consistent approach to gender mainstreaming of their HIV and wellness programmes that is also integrated within other core areas of business. The tool is being developed in collaboration with the University of South Africa and is based on the gender mainstreaming approach developed by the ILO, who also participated at the conference with a presentation highlighting the business case for gender mainstreaming. Also in relation to gender Eva Atterlöv Frisell from the Regional Team for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, spoke on the Government of Sweden’s Strategy for sexual and reproductive health for Sub-Saharan Africa and how the Swedish Government is pursuing a feminist foreign policy whose aspects include upholding of human rights, increasing women’s representation and fair allocation of resources.
The key to finally achieving that goal of zero new infections is that we all take responsibility for our behaviour. Employees and their families, employers and unions – all of us need to realise that It’s MY health, It’s YOUR health, it’s OUR health. As individuals, as workplaces, as society – we need to embrace our health. Lars G Malmer, SWHAP Board Chair
A good foundation of healthy employees means that your business can be sustained even through economic hardships. Healthy employees are innovative out-of-the-box thinkers. Patricia Munetsi, Human Resources Manager, Sandvik Mining and Construction Zimbabwe
Invest in model communities. Communities that are empowered, communities that are resilient that can absorb shock. A stronger community will always churn out healthier employees. Lois Chingandu, Executive Director, SAfAIDS
Increase the productivity levels of your business operation through health investments – VCT, ART. Healthier and safer workers are more productive. Ida Tsitsi Chimedza, ILO
An advantage of SWHAP is that it comes in to build capacity so that companies have the necessary tools to continue with the programme. This is an important element for the sustainability of programmes. Christine Olivier, 1st Deputy President, NUMSA
It is well known that there are clear links between a high level of gender equality and peaceful and democratic societies. Therefore working towards greater gender equality and ensuring women’s rights is at the heart of the Swedish Government’s foreign policy. Eva Atterlöv Frisell, First secretary- Regional Advisor, Regional Team for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
Our advantage in the SWHAP family is that the 358 workplaces from 127 companies in 10 countries provide an ideal entry platform where a wider gender mainstreaming strategy can be negotiated between companies and other internal and external role-players and stakeholders to ensure sustainable business and make a marked difference in society like what SWHAP did in the field of HIV workplace programmes. Jacob Graaff, SWHAP Senior Advisor, South Africa
We are convinced that if we are to gain progress in the field of health and wellbeing, the whole issue of gender inequality cannot be left aside. Ambassador Lars Ronnås