Please click on the link for the latest newsletter March 2015 Newsletter
In 2014 the SWHAP Conference theme “Business efficiency and health: Creating sustainable workplace Wellness and HIV Programmes” explored ways in which the proactive and strategic management of employee health and wellbeing can create business efficiencies for companies. Building on from the conference, training forums addressing the practicalities of investing in the health and wellbeing of employees for improved return on investment were held in DRC and South Africa for management and steering committees respectively.
South African steering committee representatives looked at the effectiveness of expanding health and wellness services such as psycho social support and family planning information and services offered within the workplace. They also discussed the expected return on investment in terms of increased productivity, improved workers’ morale and better relationships between management and employees.
During the DRC CEO Forum held on March 6, management from SWHAP supported companies in the DRC shared with other captains of industry how investment in their workplace programmes was starting to pay off. They noted that HIV is no longer a taboo subject amongst their employees and reduced stigma where condom distribution and voluntary counselling and testing were concerned. These are important in-roads to creating a healthy and sustainable workforce in a country where UNAIDS estimates that 87% of the population is unaware of their HIV status.
The CEO Forum was jointly organised with the ILO and UNAIDS and addressed by the Ambassador of Sweden to the DRC, H.E. Annika Ben David. In her address the Ambassador noted the important role the workplace has in contributing to the national HIV response and that the SWHAP model was one that could be replicated in other companies within the DRC.
SWHAP in the different regions works in collaboration with the ILO in sharing of information, best practices and advocacy. In February SWHAP and the ILO partnered to hold a social dialogue with the Namibian Employers Federation and the National Union of Namibian Workers. The dialogue engaged both employer and employee organisations on the need for social dialogue on various issues including collective bargaining for HIV in the workplace. Discussions highlighted the different rights and responsibilities of the parties. During the dialogue the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) shared the tools they recently developed on the management of HIV in the workplace. The dialogue received extensive local media coverage.
Whilst in Kenya the mentorship programme for five companies under the Building and Construction Workers’ Union is under way. The programme will follow the SWHAP supply chain model and reach over 5000 workers. The Kenya HIV/AIDS Business Council will provide technical support in the partnership that will see the target companies set up steering committees and formulate policies in line with the ILO’s HIV and AIDS Recommendation (No. 200). It is anticipated that the approach will inform a sectoral Policy for the Building and Construction Sector.
“HIV fatigue” is an issue of concern in many workplace programmes where employees can develop apathy and disinterest in messages around HIV. This can result in relaxation of preventative efforts with disastrous consequences. Programme designers and implementers have to constantly invest in creative and innovative initiatives to sustain the interests of employees, their families and communities.
On February 28, Sodeico Manpower from the DRC held an awareness session with a difference. The company organised a five kilometre guided walk with hidden clues on recommendations for a healthy lifestyle which participants had to locate. The walk had six intervals where a brief sensitisation message was passed and the participants, divided into small groups, had to come up with slogans for each message. The messages covered the importance of Voluntary Counselling and Testing, consistent and correct condom use, alcohol abuse and the dangers of tobacco use. Mobile VCT accompanied the 125 participants and 65% were tested for HIV.
Whilst in Zimbabwe, SWHAP is partnering with Patsime to conduct an edutainment wellness programme for five companies previously supported by the programme. Through serialised drama sessions at the individual workplaces the programme will establish baselines on attitudes towards HIV and non-communicable diseases and address any myths and misconceptions. After each drama session post performance discussions will be held with expert presentations addressing the key concerns. At the end of the seven month programme DVDs on the themes addressed will be available for each employee to share with their families and communities.
On March 8 the world’s attention was focused on celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women under the global theme “Making it Happen for Women”. The 2015 celebrations highlighted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action signed in 1995 that set the way forward for realising women’s rights. Despite the many gains made there are still gaps particularly where women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are concerned.
AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and contributes significantly to maternal mortality. The major modes of HIV transmission in Southern Africa are sexual intercourse and mother to child transmission and as such SRHR are central to addressing HIV. A holistic focus on prevention of HIV infection, unwanted pregnancies, maternal morbidity and mortality as well as promotion and protection of human rights of women through universal access to integrated SRH and HIV services is necessary for sustainable economic and social development.
SWHAP and its partners commemorated International Women’s Day through training and networking activities that saw Peer Educators and Occupational Health Practitioners in Kenya and South Africa respectively coming together to discuss how their workplace programmes could implement targeted initiatives to address the sexual and reproductive health concerns of women in their workforces and communities. In Zambia Atlas Copco, SKF and Sandvik in Kitwe conducted joint community outreach. In Botswana SWHAP partnered with Scania, UNAIDS and the ILO to host a dialogue on women’s SRH. Over 70 women attended the dialogue entitled “Celebrating Women’s Health”. The event was a great example of public-private public partnership in addressing HIV and women’s health. There was input from the Scania Botswana CEO, Freddie Hennop, the UNAIDS Director Regional Support Team Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Health, business coalitions and the National AIDS Coordinating Agency.
Why should companies be interested in women’s SRHR?
Ignoring the sexual and reproductive health needs of employees can have serious effects on productivity at the workplace with employees taking time off due to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, opportunistic infections, and reproductive cancers such as cervical cancer.
According to UNFPA “reproductive health programmes can reduce levels of STDs, including HIV, by providing information and counselling on critical issues such as sexuality, gender roles, power imbalances between women and men, gender-based violence and its link to HIV transmission, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV; distributing female and male condoms; diagnosing and treating” STIs.
A 2011 study by Levi Strauss (HERproject: Health Enables Returns) found that establishing women’s health programmes in factory settings reduced absenteeism, turnover, and error rates. Programmes yielded a return on investment of US$4:US$1 in the form of absenteeism and turnover rates. Over 80% of workers took actions to improve their health based on the information that they received at the workplace.
How can workplaces promote SRHR for all women?
1. Provide information and access to services
In 2013 SKF Zambia organised a breast cancer and cervical cancer wellness day at their premises for female employees and male employee’s spouses. The purpose of the wellness day was to raise awareness on cervical and breast cancer, discuss vulnerability factors and treatment options as well as interaction with HIV and AIDS. The company provided on site screening for 25 women during working hours. Breast cancer and cervical cancer are two of the leading causes of cancer death in women in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS).
2. Create enabling environments that promote gender equity, address gender based violence and promote programmes that encourage girls to stay in school longer.
Finding qualified women to join the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is a challenge faced by Ericsson Kenya. Ericsson is part of a global initiative Girls in ICT Day that aims to encourage young women to follow ICT related career paths. The company mentors 20 girls from under privileged schools in Nairobi. As part of the mentorship process the girls also receive training on sexual and reproductive health and wellness. Providing adolescents with comprehensive age appropriate information on sexual and reproductive health has been shown to delay sexual debut as well as promote responsible sexual behaviour. It is hoped the programme will encourage the young women to stay in school longer, increasing their chances of earning higher wages. Educating girls has been identified as one of the best solutions to reversing the trend of poverty in Africa.
3. Provide social support such as support for orphans through Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.
Many workplaces within the SWHAP network include support to orphans and vulnerable children as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes. Examples among many include the support and mentorship to SOS Children’s Villages by Sandvik Zimbabwe and Metso South Africa.
SWHAP partners in the DRC, Tigo, Ericsson and Sodeico Manpower have expanded their workplace programmes to reach eight sites in the Bas-Congo Province. Previously the companies were supporting programmes in Katanga where the companies have their headquarters. During the last week of February the three companies accompanied by SWHAP DRC Coordinator, conducted a 600 kilometre road trip, stopping at four different sites to conduct VCT with a final stop at Matadi, where Peer Educator Training took place. The exercise was an excellent example of cost sharing amongst the companies as sensitisation and VCT for all employees was conducted at Tigo shops and one Peer Educators’ training session held for all three companies. Moreover the use of Tigo shops meant that the programme was also able to reach the general population who live in remote areas with limited access to VCT or biometric screening.
On March 22, SWHAP partners in Zambia, Atlas Copco, Orica, SKF, and Sandvik met with the Director General of Sida, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka and the Ambassador of Sweden to Zambia, H.E. Lena Nordström to share their experience of the programme. Sandvik shared how their programme has expanded in focus to include families and communities and the positive impact this has had on staff morale and productivity. Atlas Copco demonstrated the return on investment as a result of implementation of a comprehensive programme. The programme has not only benefitted the company’s bottom line but the employees are also healthier and more engaged. SWHAP and its partners were encouraged to document evidence of economic benefits of workplace programmes and to share best practices with a wider audience.
World TB day on March 24 raises awareness on the health threat posed by the disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 9 million people fell ill with TB in 2013 including 1.1 million cases amongst people living with HIV. TB mostly affects the productive segment of society with serious economic consequences. An employee with TB may lose an average of 3-4 months of work and income. As for businesses operating in high prevalence settings, TB is bad news, as sick workers mean reduced productivity, absenteeism and associated costs (Stop TB).
The good news is that TB is treatable and curable for a relatively low cost. The workplace is an ideal arena to raise public awareness on the disease and ensure that employees suffering from the disease have access to screening and treatment. Prompt diagnosis and early treatment is beneficial as it curbs absenteeism and reduces the likelihood of transmission to other workers.
Workplace HIV and wellness programmes within the SWHAP network are working towards addressing the many factors that contribute to the health and wellbeing of employees at the workplace. Along with adherence to health and safety regulations, such as well-ventilated work areas, TB management is integrated into HIV and wellness programmes. The risk of TB is greater in people suffering from conditions that impair the immune system such as HIV (TB is the major cause of death among people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa). Moreover there is evidence of links between TB and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.
Addressing TB is an issue of concern particularly in mining communities, where many factors including, prolonged exposure to silica, cramped living conditions, migratory nature of work and higher than average HIV prevalence put communities at added risk of TB infection. Moreover infected employees can put their families at risk when they travel back home.
Employees within the SWHAP network, many of whom work in the mining communities, are educated on modifiable risk factors impacting health such as nutrition, exercise, avoidance of alcohol and smoking. Disease management and employee support programmes mean that employees with TB have greater opportunities for early diagnosis, treatment and receiving support within the workplace. Support is an important element in addressing TB as treatment can take up to nine months with adherence being essential for avoiding multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). MDR-TB develops when there is adherence failure or inappropriate treatment. Treatment for MDR-TB is usually a lengthy and expensive process.
Elements of a workplace TB Programme
TB workplace programmes should:
- Be integrated into existing workplace HIV and/ or wellness programmes
- Offer opportunities for diagnosis
- Include programmes that address stigma and raise awareness
- Provide treatment at the workplace either through an in house programme or collaboration with the public health systems
- Ensure a healthy working environment that is well ventilated and free from dust
- Offer support programmes for employees on treatment
- Reach out to families of employees through medical insurance and or improved access to the public health system
Adapted from stoptb.org
New films from Scania
Scania has released two films on the workplace wellness programme in South Africa. The films highlight three different aspects of the programme; community outreach at Soweto Kiptown Youth Centre, peer education and campaigns reaching truck and bus drivers with information on HIV and wellness as well as access to testing.
Scania South Africa was the recipient of the SWHAP Achievement Award 2014 for Most Comprehensive Programme.
Watch the films here.
We at SWHAP were deeply saddened to hear about the death of Hon George Muchai on Saturday morning. The former Deputy Secretary General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions – Kenya and Member of Parliament for Kabete, believed in collaboration between workers and management in the implementation of successful programmes and was an inspiration to the SWHAP network in Kenya. He was featured in the SWHAP Film in 2013.
We would like to extend our condolences to his family, colleagues, friends and the Kenyan nation.