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Allies, it’s time to put on the white ribbon

November 24, 2021

Adam Loder, left, and Mike Garreffa wear white ribbons on their Vale shirts to signal their support for White Ribbon, a campaign that raises awareness around gender-based violence and manhood. Photo: Vale Archive

Over the next few months, you may see more and more allies wearing white ribbons around our operations and wonder what they represent. The white ribbon is a sign that the wearer has pledged to never commit, condone or remain silent about all forms of gender-based violence. 

Starting November 25, Vale employees will be receiving white ribbons. In a show of solidarity, we ask everyone to take selfies with their ribbons (the more, the better!). It can be a photo of you wearing your white ribbon or with the white ribbon Teams backdrop or signing the pledge poster at your site. Please email your photo to Vale News. (Scroll to the bottom for details). 

For the first time, our North Atlantic Operations is working with White Ribbon, an organization first founded in Toronto in 1991, to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity. To that end, employees like Mike Garreffa and Adam Loder, who are both based in Long Harbour, NL, have created an alliance of ambassadors to have representation across the North Atlantic. 

“It’s clear that we as a company work on diversity and inclusion, and gender inequality is not just a women’s issue,” said Mike, manager, Leach Operations. “It’s a problem that all of us have to help solve, and we’re looking for more men and allies to be advocates, to participate and be part of the solution.” 

For 30 years, White Ribbon has, through education and outreach, worked to challenge and combat negative and outdated concepts of manhood with the ultimate goal of inspiring positive change. 

With their guidance, an internal advisory team that includes Toronto-based Alisha Kamran, advisor, Corporate Affairs, who has been heading up the communications around the initiative, is meeting regularly to develop ways to get frontline employees energized to participate.

“Having local ambassadors is critical,” said Adam, Operations superintendent. “They can help us communicate at a local level and inspire involvement at all levels of our organization.” 

“We’re always more receptive to messages when they come from people we know,” added Mike. “Local ambassadors can make our messages more engaging and personal.” 

With that, the White Ribbon team has been holding weekly Coffee House Teams sessions throughout November. Open to all Vale employees, contractors – basically everyone at our sites – each session focused on a specific topic and provided ample time for questions and answers. “We’ve heard for too long that boys don’t cry,” Adam offered, as an example of a discussion topic. “But we want men to know that they don’t need to be the stereotypical tough guy.” 

As men in an industry dominated by men, Adam and Mike understand how difficult it can be to change a culture. “If you’re sitting in a room with a supervisor who is a woman, and the team is not recognizing her input, speak up,” Mike said. “How do you let people know that it’s not okay? A lot of us might just ignore it and walk away. But we’re at a point now where we can no longer do so because ignoring it and walking away doesn’t change anything, we must take action today.” 

Adam recalled interviewing a woman a few months ago who discussed the challenges she faced as a supervisor. “People would just walk around her and go talk to someone else,” Adam said. “Mining has historically been dominated by men, but that’s changing, and we really need to evolve our culture and recognize that there are attitudes and behaviours that can no longer be accepted.” 

Vale is preparing for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which kicks off November 25, with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends December 10 with Human Rights Day. In the coming weeks, you will be receiving more information about initiatives in your area – please keep an eye out. 

“We’re trying to change the narrative,” Mike said. “If we change one person’s language and attitudes, that’s going to be a success. The more people who advocate for equity and the end of violence against women, that’s a success.”

“In the end, we all have women in our lives whom we love – our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, nieces, friends – and it’s up to us to be part of the solution,” Adam added. “We can no longer ignore nor tolerate the status quo.”  

What can you do right now? 

  • Take a White Ribbon selfie today. After you receive your white ribbon, show allyship by taking a selfie wearing your white ribbon and emailing your photo to this link by end of day December 8. Sorry, we cannot extend the deadline.  
  • Take the pledge. Go to https://www.whiteribbon.ca/Vale-Pledge.html  and take the pledge to end gender-based violence and promote gender equity. It takes just a minute to complete. 
  • Educate. Share this story on your social channels with the hashtags #AlliesOfQuality, #WhiteRibbon, #ValeProud

Keep your eyes on Vale News for upcoming stories featuring White Ribbon ambassadors Peter Martin from our Clydach Nickel Refinery and Adam MacMillan from our Toronto Office. 

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