Celebrating Women in CSR – Lomthunzi Mbewe
As part of International Women’s Month to celebrate the achievements of women, we kick off our series to appreciate Women in CSR with an interview of Lomthunzi Mbewe, the Community and Stakeholder Relations Manager at Lubambe Copper Mine Limited.
Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and the number of years you have been a CSR/CSI practitioner.
I have worked in CSR for 2 years since 2019. My role is to provide leadership and oversight in Lubambe Copper Mine’s Community investments in various areas of strategic an economic interest such as – Education, Health, Agriculture (through sustainable businesses mostly in agriculture), Infrastructure Development.
I also provide oversight in ensuring we have a Social license to operate by developing stakeholder engagement initiatives, project planning and execution, my team and I also assess the comprehensive needs of various stakeholders before implementing Community programs.
Tell us about someone or something (mentor, friend, hero, incident) who or that affected or influenced your CSR journey, and how.
As you can rightly tell, I am relatively new to the CSR space. I have worked longest on the other side of the spectrum; facilitating for FDI into Zambia, and it is here in my previous life, that I took an interest in Impact Investing. I have always had a very good understanding of the many socioeconomic challenges that an average Zambian faces in their day-to-day- lacking- lacking clean water, lacking access to basic necessities, amenities, malnutrition and a whole myriad of issues we are confronted with when you step into the streets.
When the opportunity presented, I took a real leap of faith to crossover and join industry and delve into working with communities and be a part of real time impact. That is what influenced my decision- to be part of a greater cause and truly empower people out of hopelessness.
How has CSR/CSI evolved at your organization?
I would say the basic understanding of CSR has taken a whole new dimension- traditionally CSR was almost appeasement to the local community for conducting mining activities in the host area. So where before we had Corporate philanthropy- donations, donations and more donations we are now shifting into actual scrutiny of community needs and actual viability of any programs we design.
I do not believe CSR/CSI is static- it is evolutionary and it is evident at Lubambe Copper Mine because not only are we aligning programs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we are also keeping up with the whole movement on actual social investments that create value.
Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
I have many things that I can point at as a point of pride. But I would have to say that every time my team and I are collaborating with actual experts in various fields and domesticating programs to address community needs and we begin to note actual impact- that is always something I sit back and say “Another win!”.
I am particularly happy to have such wide networks that we are able to leverage other stakeholder strengths and continue to provide training to the communities in very important life skills such as financial literacy, conservation farming, fingerling production, leadership, and exposing them to so many other opportunities- this is also something I am particularly proud of.
If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be, in line with CSR?
That’s just it. I have the POWER and I have the support to actually make changes. The Mining industry is so male dominated- the representation is for every female employee, there’s 10 times the number of men- literally. I have come into this space and I hope many more women will. Its only when we actually take the leap of faith and work alongside men as equals that any significant change can happen in the Industry.
In community work- I am happy to report that I have actually introduced deliberate and what I like to call women-centric programs. This is programs specifically tailored to be women-led. We are working with cooperatives that are led by women in so many areas so the actual change is already happening at a small scale and I am optimistic this will transcend the cooperatives and spill over into more and more women-inclusive programs.
What is the best advice you have ever received in your career?
I have had the privilege to work with very solid and good brains with many years’ experience in their particular fields. I am always receiving wise counsel from colleagues that have more work experience than I do. The best advice I have ever received is to not limit myself and my abilities.
How can CSR activities be used to empower women?
We need to develop programs that deliberately include women and not in a relegated position of support or cheerleader but in the actual formulation and working alongside men to implement. Equal benefit must also be taken into consideration, there is really no value in continuing or gatekeeping the hierarchy or patriarchy in the mining industry and as a spill over in mining communities. Every program formulated must include women equally.
Describe your perfect day.
A perfect day for me is the day I will wake up to hear we are finally over and done with COVID-19. But on another note, a perfect day is one where I can tick off everything on my to-do list as having done very well; woke up early, exercised, ate a healthy meal, drank enough water, read a book, did not complain, preserved my mental health and spoke to each member of my family.