Every year, we host the Diamonds Do Good Awards in Las Vegas and every year we are amazed by our industry’s commitment to and passion for doing good. In the words of our founder Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and through the support of the diamond industry, the Diamond Empowerment Fund works to do just that. The future is in the hands of our youth, who we have no doubt possess the passion and the power, perhaps more than ever before, to drive positive change.
The Education Impact
We were honored to have one such youth join us at our 2018 Diamonds Do Good Awards on May 31stat the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, just a little over a week after her graduation from Yale University.
Born and raised in Gabarone, Botswana, Opelo Matome seemed to understand the immense impact education can have on one’s life from a very young age. The photo below shows Opelo and her mother at her kindergarten graduation. “In this photograph,” she says, “I am wearing a black cap and gown, the widest grin and absolutely bursting with pride. I knew then that I would always find joy in learning.”
That joy for learning ignited a passion in Opelo that would carry her on a life-changing educational journey. Excelling throughout primary and secondary school, she went on to become a Botswana Top Achiever, which afforded her the unique opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States, Yale University. It was then the puzzle pieces truly clicked and she began to fully understand not only her country’s dedication to positive change, but the equal dedication of an entire industry to furthering the education of those living in diamond communities worldwide.
“I grew up knowing the significant effect that Diamonds had on the Botswana economy,” she says. “However, it was only later in my life that I realized that diamonds were the rocks, the foundation, of not only my nation’s wealth but of many of my own experiences growing up.” In fact, Opelo was not the only member of her family with a passion for learning and the support of the diamond industry to back it. Her father, who she describes as “always the man behind the photograph,” was afforded a similar unique opportunity to be educated abroad, studying in both Wales and London through scholarships from De Beers Botswana.
The importance of the diamond industry paired with her country’s dedication to education is not lost on Opelo. “For a nation such as Botswana, once labeled one of the poorest countries in the world,” she says, “the discovery of natural resources, effective policies and reinvestment in these resources resulted in fast and sustained economic growth.” It is this understanding, no doubt, that has led to Opelo’s completion of an undergraduate degree in Economics and ignited her passion for working towards positive global change. “By choosing to study economics,” she says, “I hope to broaden my understanding of the world, equip myself with the necessary quantitative and analytical tools to interpret this world, and apply creative and innovative solutions to its problems.”
Opelo credits the diamond industry as well as her own ambitions and her parents’ unwavering support for affording her such unique and life-changing opportunities, stating, “I am ever grateful for the opportunities I’ve been granted through the support of organizations like the Diamond Empowerment Fund and my country’s prioritization of education, truly one of the most powerful weapons of change.”
Continuing her education with Yale, Opelo will spend the next two years as a Swensen Fellow and Strategic Analyst before going on to pursue a J.D./MBA, which she hopes will lead to a career that will allow her to combine law and economic policy to encourage entrepreneurship and foster cohesion amongst the legal, public and private sectors in her home country of Botswana.
It is the continued support of our industry that allows the Diamond Empowerment Fund to help finance programs like Botswana Top Achievers and help further ambitious and bright students like Opelo on their journeys to successful and globally ‘good’ careers.
So, in the spirit of ‘good’ fun and friendly competition, we decided to incorporate something new into our Diamonds Do Good Awards this year, an appeal which we call “Balloons for Good,” emceed by Awards Chair and president of Hearts On Fire, Caryl Capeci and JCK News Director Rob Bates.
In addition to adding an element of excitement and color to the event, “Balloons for Good” helped raised funds which will be used to support student scholars on their quest to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders.
Honoring The ‘Good’
The commitment the Diamond Industry has to education is evident in its support of D.E.F’s mission, but we are just one example of the good this industry does and the causes they support. This year, we were thrilled to celebrate our two incredible honorees, who truly exemplify what it means to be a global leader for positive change and how “Diamonds Do Good.”
Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers, was given our Diamonds Do Good Women’s Professional Advancement Award for his role in accelerating the professional advancement of women throughout the De Beers Group of Companies and his partnership with UN Women to become a catalyst for gender parity throughout the entire industry.
“While this award has my name on it, I am collecting it on behalf of the De Beers Group,” he humbly states, “because advancing women and girls is not something that can be achieved by one person alone. It needs support from all levels of the organisation, and from both men and women, in order to have a sustainable impact. And my colleagues at De Beers equally share my passion for the journey we are on.”
This is a commitment that De Beers is not taking lightly. In September of 2017, they announced a three-year partnership with UN Women and have already seen the tangible results of their efforts, committing to invest $3 million to improve the prospects of women and girls in diamond producing countries. In addition, they are working to accelerate the advancement of women internally within the De Beers organization, committing to achieve parity in the new appointments of women and men into senior roles by 2020.
“As a founding supporter of the Diamond Empowerment Fund,” Cleaver says, “the philosophy of Diamonds Do Good underpins everything we do.”
Accepted by Premier Bob McLeod, The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) of Canada was honored with the Diamonds Do Good Responsible Government Award for its responsible diamond mining development policies.
Opening his remarks, Premier McLeod stated his pride in accepting this award, noting that he does so on behalf of the 33 communities and municipalities that make up Canada’s Northwest Territories, as well as the northern diamond industry that ties them all together.
“’Diamonds do Good’ in our jurisdiction,” he says, “because of a special partnership that exists between my government – the many Indigenous governments in our territory – and the word-class diamond producers that work with us in Canada’s North.”
The impact made is what they call the ‘NWT Difference,’ and consist of many approaches to ensure the acceleration of the North’s economy, including Socio-Economic and Impact Benefit Agreements, as well as environmental preservation programs between Northern diamond producers and the NWT Government and its indigenous populations.
In addition to economic and environmental preservation and advancement, the GNWT, much like Bruce Cleaver and the De Beers Group, has also made it a priority to ensure equal opportunities for men and women throughout the diamond industry.
Perfect examples of this commitment are Kimi Balsillie and Kelly Lafferty-Norn, NWT residents who we were thrilled to have join us in Vegas as Premier McLeod’s honored guests. Kimi’s role as an environmental officer working in employee safety and environmental standards, “personifies the respect that our industry now shares for the mineral-rich lands that they are working on,” says Premier McLeod, while Kelly, “drives a 60-ton truck, and is considered one of Diavik’s top haul-truck operators.” Starting off with a regular desk job, Kelly represents the many “fresh starts” and career opportunities that are available to the women and men in the Northwest Territories.
Both of these women truly exemplify the “NWT Difference” and how “Diamonds Do Good,” as independent, indigenous women – born and raised in the NWT – who have embraced opportunities provided by diamond mining.
Diamond Empowerment Fund President Anna Martin, also senior vice president of GIA, closed the evening saying “the recipients of this year’s Diamonds Do Good Awards truly reflect the ongoing positive impact being fostered by the diamond industry around the world. Sharing these stories with our consumers is not only good for business, it is a responsibility for the entire industry.”