Jewellers' Network

De Beers Group of Companies partners with United Nations to empower women


Partnership harnesses commitment of De Beers and UN Women to advance gender equality

On September 2017, De Beers Group announced a three-year partnership with UN Women to accelerate the advancement of women across its organisation, in its diamond producing countries and in its marketing.

De Beers Group announced a three-year partnership with UN Women to accelerate the advancement of women across its organisation, in its diamond producing countries and in its marketing.

As a UN Women partner, De Beers has committed to achieving parity in the appointment of women and men into senior leadership roles, investing in women micro-entrepreneurs and STEM students in its diamond producing countries and ensuring De Beers’ brands are a positive force for eliminating gender stereotypes through all its marketing campaigns.


Working alongside UN Women, governments and communities in its diamond producing countries of Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa, De Beers will invest US$3 million to advance the prospects of women and girls by addressing key priority areas.

In Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, the programmes will focus on accelerating the growth of women-owned micro-enterprises to enhance the capacity of women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, increase their income and create sustainable jobs for themselves and their communities. The capacity-building model will be specifically tailored for each country to support women micro-entrepreneurs with business and life skills to enable them to realise their potential and contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

In Canada, De Beers and UN Women will work with, among others, the University of Waterloo to provide scholarships and mentoring to young women and girls from underprivileged communities who want to pursue studies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

These programmes are in the advanced planning stages and are due to launch in the coming months.


De Beers will also accelerate the advancement of women across its organisation by more than doubling
the rate of women appointed into senior leadership roles, achieving parity in the appointment of women and men into senior leadership by 2020.

The commitment to create a step-change in the appointment of senior leaders within De Beers is coupled with a holistic approach already underway and focused on attracting and developing women at earlier stages in their careers wherever De Beers operates across the diamond value chain. A Gender Diversity Steering Group has been established, reporting to the De Beers Group Executive Committee, with involvement from senior women and men across the organisation to meet this commitment, sustain it and build on it through tailored action plans in each part of the business.

Beginning earlier this year, Group-wide initiatives have already included a review of talent attraction and development processes, the rollout of unconscious bias training, the establishment of a senior management-led reciprocal mentoring programme and the review of policies and recruitment guidelines.


De Beers’ consumer brands Forevermark and De Beers Diamond Jewellers will leverage the considerable purchasing power and cultural influence of their diamond marketing campaigns to serve as a positive force for gender equality.  The company will work with UN Women to support its marketing teams in shaping creative campaigns that reflect the diverse roles that women occupy in society.

Both Forevermark and De Beers Diamond Jewellers have already begun commissioning new campaigns, due to run later this year and next year, that are inspired by equality and the evolving role of women in society.


In recognition of De Beers’ commitment to women’s equality, Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, was named a UN Women ‘HeForShe’ Thematic Champion. HeForShe is the UN’s global movement for the acceleration of gender equality and Mr Cleaver is one of eight global Thematic Champions who have committed to implementing policies and actions within their organisation to advance gender equality.

Commenting on his appointment, which was announced by UN Women Executive Director, and Under-Secretary General, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka during the UN General Assembly, Mr Cleaver said: “Improving the prospects for women and girls advances an entire society and organisation, as everyone benefits from the increased diversity of experience, skills and insight that greater representation of women delivers. We are in the early stages of our journey toward gender parity and we know that achieving our goals will require a dedicated and ongoing focus that continues well beyond our initial 2020 target.

“Diamonds hold a unique place in marking the most precious moments in the lives of millions of women around the world. At De Beers we believe it is our responsibility and privilege to stand with women, to lead in the pursuit of equality and to give even deeper meaning to the diamonds they are proud to wear and pass on to next generations.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, said: “We are delighted to have De Beers Group on board as a UN Women partner. With global organisations like De Beers joining the United Nations movement to achieve gender equality, we are able to reach new and greater audiences to further build global awareness and support for advancing women’s empowerment.”

About Un Women

UN Women is the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

For more information, visit

About “He for She”

Created by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, the ‘HeForShe’ solidarity movement for gender equality provides a systematic approach and targeted platform where a global audience can engage and become change agents for the achievement of gender equality in our lifetime. ‘HeForShe’ invites people around the world to stand together as equal partners to craft a shared vision of a gender equal world and implement specific, locally relevant solutions for the good of all humanity.

For more information, visit

About De Beers Group

De Beers Group is a member of the Anglo American plc group. Established in 1888, De Beers Group is the world’s leading diamond company with expertise in the exploration, mining and marketing of diamonds. Together with its joint venture partners, De Beers Group employs more than 20,000 people across the diamond pipeline and is the world’s largest diamond producer by value, with mining operations in Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa. As part of the company’s operating philosophy, the people of De Beers Group are committed to ‘Building Forever’ by making a lasting contribution to the communities in which they live and work, and transforming natural resources into shared national wealth. For further information about De Beers Group, visit 


What attracted you to the diamond industry?

Besides love for the mystery stone,  the curiosity of how a piece of carbon can survive such earthly pressure and still manage to evolve and become such brilliance and beauty highly value stone known to man was my bait to get into the industry, I took interest in diamonds as I likened it to a determined woman. Coming from an investment background this was by far the investment tool that was underplayed and yet carries such values that are incomparable to the rest. Simple equation…for as long as there are women on earth Diamonds will be bought.  Show me such an investment, that has stood the test of time.

Tell us more about your journey into the establishing your business and gaining access to the industry?

Journey began with an experience that changed my life back in 2008 while travelling and venturing through digging fields in the DRC. From that day I knew my path was already paved out for me. I knew I had to make a difference there was no way that diamonds could be associated with that, and I took it upon myself that I need to change perceptions around diamonds.  So I got adopted by this Jewish family that officially introduced me to the real industry and I never looked back from then on.

My sister and I went on to enrol for Diamond valuation course and got licenced to trade and from then on all the doors flung open. I was then afforded an opportunity to join and Indian Company to set up a factory, we subsequently achieved a sightholder status under my leadership which was a milestone as there has never been a black female factory manager especially a Sightholder, in South Africa.  That gave Kwame Diamonds a home to grow and thrive under a secure environment, that had expertise, infrastructure and growth prospects.  I knew then that we are going to be a successful woman led company.

How do you feel working in a male dominant environment?

I am no stranger working in a male dominated industry, coming from a stockbroking background I was very much the only lady in the dealing room and a soon became the woman/man and had to prove that I could cope with the pressures of the markets, come back home to be a mother, a wife and mange my me time that gives you character in many ways than one. The experience has been invaluable, on the other hand the Diamond Industry is different as in that it is harsh yet gentle.  Both industries are similar as you get to deal with a great deal of money in the form of diamonds and stocks and shares therefore  need to pay attention to detail cause the losses can spell the end of you, similarly the upside can make you.

What element do you feel women like yourself bring to the diamond industry?

In my view Women bring an element of direction in the industry. For a very long time men have decided what would be best for us but, Diamonds are a girl’s best friend yet the girl is just a consumer in the value chain.  So with women being hands on in the industry brings a feminine dynamic that gives direction as to what needs to be in the market and what trends are being set, we are the market, so we dictate what is appealing and what is not.  We make the brands what they are, so woman playing a meaningful role in the industry is key and crucial.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years’ time?

Being a first black women owned sightholder the first  in the history of South Africa and possibly in the world for Debeers.  We are building Kwame to be a global brand specialising in special, stones ,cuts and colors. managing  mega factory  and the biggest employer of  women in the industry.  We will have a jewellery brand synonymous with elegance, brilliance and perfection. 

What attracted you to the diamond industry?

With the dawn of democracy, everyone was going for the mining industry and we did not want to be left behind, so we went on a quest to own a gold or platinum mine.  But as fate would have it, journey led us to diamonds. My sister and I were introduced to an old man who had a matchbox with the tiniest shiny stones I’ve ever seen (diamonds). He was looking for investors into his diamond mine.  I thought, if this old man can do it, so can we.  That was the start of our adventure   

Tell us more about your journey into the establishing your business and gaining access to the industry?

My auditor happened to also be in the diamond mining industry.  We thought it would be great to partner with him to launch us into this safe guarded and highly protected industry.  This worked out in our favour as it opened a lot of doors for us.  We soon realized that for us to make a positive impact, we had to have our own company. In 2006 my sister and I registered for a rough evaluating and sorting course.  We recognized very early that this is not an industry of chancers.  You have to know what you are doing or you would be swallowed whole. In 2008 we founded our company Kwame Diamonds and we applied for our Dealers license and later Beneficiation license. My sister was afforded an opportunity to start a manufacturing factory which she led to becoming a sightholder.

This afforded our company an opportunity to learn from the best and to establish the much needed networks.  Since we did not have finance of our own to start buying our own parcels, through our networks we managed to get a few clients that we could take to tenders to buy on our license and we earned commission from that.

We saved up some of that money to buy our very own parcel.  We became clients of the State Diamond Trader which was a really exciting milestone for us because it meant that we were allocated our own parcel of diamonds.  We did not have to compete with big companies with deep pockets.  This allowed us to start manufacturing on a small scale. We partnered with strategic partners in order to gain access finance and to markets.  A big eye opener for me was when we went to Hong Kong through the DTI’s South African Pavilion for a Diamond exhibition where I saw that South Africa has a lot to offer and a lot of work to do in marketing our diamonds.  A lot of companies in the world want access to our goods and love our story.  This excited us and also challenged us to up our game to meet world standards.

Our company was one of five companies that were choses for a DeBeers beneficiation project.  Through this project we got to know more about running a diamond business and also gave us confidence to pitch our company to international buyers. We now have a well-equipped manufacturing factory. We currently have 8 employees and have managed to secure two major clients.     

How do you feel working in a male dominant environment?

Initially I was intimidated because I knew very little about the industry.  I learned quick and gained confidence because I realized that when you are trying to sell something you know nothing about, they can see right through you.  But I also learned that our male counterpart were equally intrigued by the fact that this was a women own company and are making great strides in the industry.  So to a certain extend I would say we have earned their respect and they have forced us to toughen up and roll with the punches. I have an added advantage that I can wear my diamonds while I sell them.

What element do you feel women like yourself bring to the diamond industry?

As you have rightfully said that this is a male dominated industry, as one of the few women in the industry I think we have a huge responsibility of holding the torch for more women to join the industry.  Our aim is to make sure that diamonds not only look good on a women but also bring positive impact to lives of the communities from which they have been mined or manufactures.  Our company’s slogan is “Brilliance with a purpose”.  This means, sourcing our diamonds responsibly and making sure that we impact the lives of our employees, and of our clients positively.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years’ time?

We find ourselves in a very interesting space and time.  If we are able to implement our strategy, in five years’ time we will be the first Black women, family owned diamond Beneficiating Company, to be a Sightholder in South Africa and in the World. The thought just gives me goose bumps. There are so many firsts that we will have achieved.  We aim to be the largest employer of women in the diamond beneficiating space.  We want to build Kwame Diamonds to be a household name locally and internationally.

What attracted you to the diamond industry?

I fell in love with the industry from being a polisher of diamonds for 2 decades and I learned to appreciate the industry. My main attraction to this industry was purely the beauty of the diamond and the potential of achieving great success through this type of business.

Tell us more about your journey into the establishing of your business and gaining access to the industry?

The beginning was not the easiest part, as this industry has a relatively low participation of females especially from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. Soon after I left my former employer I formed part of the VELANI HIVE program which was OPPERHEIMERS initiative aimed at boosting start-up companies and soon thereafter my company was on its own to explore more opportunities. State Diamond Trader is one of the key entities that played a role into my interest in the business. Also being selected as one of the 5 companies in the De Beers beneficiation project played a vital role in the growth of our business through exposure to various platforms like Raizcorp to help transform and take the business to the next level.

How do feel working in a male dominated environment?

Our society remains driven by our perception of gender roles and stereotypes. This informs how we see men who work in traditionally ‘female sectors’ (such as nursing) and women in ‘male dominated roles’. Personally gender doesn’t limit an individual what matters is the positive enjoyment you feel for your job and career path outweighs the negative anxiety you feel as a result of being in a gender minority. Though the journey has not been easy the challenges of being a women and a mother are far greater than that of a male in this field but it is by staying focused and being a spiritual person that has helped me overcome challenges and being optimistic.

What element do you feel woman like yourself bring to the industry?

The industry has been lacking a lot of what women represent in society. Women have a delicate and nurturing instinct which is vital in this line of business. My journey resembles that of a women who thrives in equal opportunity as men and of a spirit of resilience looking from where I come from to where I am today and the Integrity that comes with the quality of work that my company produces.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?

Our goal for the next 5 years is to grow our client base in local and international markets by providing a continuous supply of high quality stones. And also to play a significant role in empowering women and youth participation in the South African diamond industry. Our efforts will determine the future of this company “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” TS Eliot. 

What attracted you to the diamond industry?

Fire, scintillating, Bright, Twinkling, Flashing, Exhilarating, Dazzling, Exciting – What else but Diamonds – Reaching for the Sky, Falling amongst the Stars, Love at first sight.

It is this breath–taking beauty that created a yearning in my heart to own a Diamond – ‘aaahh’,  a long time ago, a faraway dream for a 19 year old lover of diamonds.

I bought my first diamond from Mr Wolf and accidently called him Mr Fox. His booming laughter and my nervous giggle created a long beautiful bond between us. This was the birth of my passionate journey into the Diamond World / The Business world.

‘To be successful,  the first thing to do is fall in love with your work’.

Diamonds and the beautiful people in the industry, have  Helped make  me into a successful, confident businesswoman. This flame of passion once ignited was insatiable. It is the thirst for the knowledge of every aspect of diamonds  that enabled me to succeed and beat  all the odds stacked up in a business dominated by wealthy powerful companies

Tell us more about your journey into the establishing your business and gaining access to the industry?

Most people regret asking me such a question because I’m a passionate talker when it comes to my business. I can talk for hours and my children just go “ not again please “ They said if mummy goes into a coma, start talking about diamonds and she’ll come out of the coma to add her inputs.

I am an extremely focused person, there is no ‘you cannot ‘ in my dictionary. As a newly married couple my husband and I moved to Johannesburg ‘ the land of honey, gold and diamonds’.

I had an amount of money received as dowry. I firmly resolved to buy a diamond. Naïve and gutsy, I opened the yellow pages and called De Beers head office insisting that I buy my diamond from them, cutting out the middle man. Why should I –a South African buy a diamond from the stores when  I Have De beers on my door step. I was put through to Urna Mei. I kept calling  her until her words, ’ Munirah I need to get you out of my hair.’  She sent me to Mr Wolf- A Sight holder at that time.

It is he who sold me my first Diamond and further offered me diamonds for fifty rands, which even at that time was extremely cheap. He explained to me that he’s helping me start my business and I should not sell cheap.  He used  the word ‘Mazal ‘on that deal and I asked him to explain it. He didn’t just teach me how to use a loupe but he gave me my first loupe for free, taught me how to calculate on the Rappaport , and even scolded me  as to ‘how can you sell the stones for such a low profit? Get opposite to the Harry Oppenheimer School ‘ he said, which I did many years later after his sad passing. I will forever be grateful for the kindness Mr Wolf showed me. I bought and sold polished as a hobby for a long time.

My thirst to know everything about Diamonds led me to graduate in Diamonds with The world renown Gemmological Institute of America. My friend Thoko  told me to apply as a client of the State Diamond Trader. Being the optimistic person that I am, I went ahead and applied  to become a client of the State Diamond Trader with no money… panicked when accepted, but ‘can’t let an open door close!!!! Once again… ‘yes I can’. Of course another friend of mine by the name Manas helped me buy my first lot of stones

These were my first steps into the diamond  industry. Looking back I persevered and in recent years with the help of State Diamond Trader, Raizcorp and De Beers Sight Holder Sales Beneficiation Project I have grown in huge gigantic leaps.

Today I am Munirah Desai, Director Diamonds Africa, A Proudly South African Company, Client of the State Diamond Trader, AND A DE BEERS SIGHTHOLDER SALES SOUTH AFRICA BENEFICATION PROJECT MEMBER.               

Most Importantly a successful empowered women through Education and the beautiful people around me.

And I have so many to thank, firstly the Almighty Creator, my husband, family and all my friends that have become family. I am forever grateful for everyone who has helped me even by means of advice. To you it may be small, but to me it’s everything. I am where I am because of all your help and prayers, Thank You.

How do you feel working in a male dominant environment?

Most People make the gender of a person an issue, people say working in a male  dominant environment means you have to fight harder. Personally in my opinion, Gender does not matter, if you persevere, love what you do, abide by strict principles of truthfulness and good business ethics, being a women does not affect your business unless you allow it to.

What element do you feel women like yourself bring to the diamond industry?

Well firstly I think it brings hope to simple people, A dream and a passion is all you need to reach for the sky , don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something, being a women especially from a conservative home in veil most people will question your ability to be professional, don’t let anyone ever tell you what you can and can’t do…

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years’ time?

Optimism is the essence of success, so I say, whilst being realistic lets be optimistic also! Why are you asking me about 5 years, in 2 years’ time I expect to have my own fully functional polishing factory, I also aim to now target the retail market which will allow me to make better profits which in turn will increase my capital allowing me to purchase bigger parcels of stones with the end result being my company Diamonds Africa becoming more competitive but more importantly Diamonds Africa will become a major buying power, allowing us to influence decisions in the Diamond Market, Finally Diamonds Africa hopes to accomplish the status of being the first De Beer’s Women sight holder owned Company.