Avon addresses escalation in gender violence via #IsolatedNotAlone campaign
“Gender violence is a silent, hidden epidemic, impacting one in three women. An unintended consequence of the lockdown is a surge in domestic violence.” These powerful words come from Natalie Deacon, President of the Avon Foundation for Women, who works hard with her team to tackle violence against women.
Avon’s groundbreaking Isolated Not Alone campaign, launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to raise awareness about the hidden issue of gender violence, to sign-post where those in need or at risk could find help for, and to call on Governments to pay attention to the issue and support vital services. Avon has also donated much-needed funds and products to women’s refuges and frontline service providers.
Natalie provides International Women's Day with some key insight into elements of the campaign and we speak further with two women playing key roles in Avon’s #IsolatedNotAlone international initiative.
Writing an open letter
“Avon is uniting with our sister brands Aesop, The Body Shop and Natura to galvanise our networks and call upon governments to keep domestic violence front of mind and ensure support services have adequate funding. Together Avon, Natura, The Body Shop and Aesop represent the world’s largest women’s network, connecting more than six million representatives and consultants, and 40,000 employees with 200 million consumers in 110 countries. We invite people to join us in fighting for women and children who are at increased risk of violence at this time,” explains Natalie.
Image: Natalie Deacon, President of the Avon Foundation for Women
Pledging $1m to front-line services
Avon pledged an impressive USD 1 million commitment to front-line services to support women and children at risk. The substantial donation is helping services cope with increased demand resulting from the lockdown.
“Front-line services are experiencing a surge in demand for their services and are already under-resourced and need our help,” says Natalie. “Through this donation to 50 NGOs across 37 countries, we can directly help and support women and children in need.”
Unleashing a Trojan Horse
Florencia Yanuzzio, Executive Director, Avon Foundation Argentina, played an integral role in launching Avon’s ‘Trojan Horse videos’ as part of the #IsolatedNotAlone campaign.
“In the context of the world pandemic, women suffering domestic violence are locked down 24/7 with their aggressor. This has made women more isolated than ever before,” explains Florencia.
“At Avon Foundation Argentina, we are always working on our Promise to End Violence Against Women and Girls, and we wanted to place this issue on the public agenda. We needed an innovative and clear message both for women who are experiencing violence at home, and their neighbours, family and friends who are also in need of tools to assist these women in this particular context. Plus, we wanted to help unburden the very saturated official helplines.”
This innovative message took the form of four videos which, disguised as cooking recipes, delivered key messages to women during lockdown isolation.
The videos were released when quarantine was established in Argentina and deliver vital information to women suffering domestic violence. They are performed by well-known cooks who are committed to the cause and donated their work free of charge.
“Aggressors will probably show more distrust from a friend's direct message rather than a cooking tutorial,” Florencia explains. “The first seconds of the videos make you think it’s a cooking tutorial, but then the video suggests putting in your headphones to continue. These videos were sent by all Avon representatives and associates to all their networks and to the public in general, disguised as ‘Lifesaving recipes for quarantine’.”
Video: Domestic violence support innovatively disguised as recipe cooking lessons
Making a double impact
Florencia describes the videos as making a “double impact” in terms of delivering vital information to women during isolation while advising them they are not alone and delivering powerful messaging.
“We also noticed a big impact on the general audience. The videos convey the level of control and scrutiny suffered by domestic violence victims. We expect men and women everywhere to feel the need to get involved: maintaining virtual contact, delivering messages about prevention, rights and hotline services information to the women,” she adds.
Some markets such as Brazil have even converted Avon Argentina’s idea into makeup tutorial videos - which is great as it means the baton is being taken up.
“The second phase of #IsolatedNotAlone is about generating awareness of the importance of the role neighbours have during lock down. They are the ones who can hear abusive situations and can intervene. We want them to have the tools to feel secure on how to act, we want them to get involved in a safe manner,” Florencia adds.
Proud to be a part of the work
Florencia says she is proud to be part of Avon - a company that has been supporting women for more than 130 years all around the world.
“The ‘empowerment of women’ is at the core of Avon’s business and purpose. Every decision we take is focused on creating new opportunities for women and standing up for their rights. Every piece of research and every statistic shows again and again that when women's quality of life improves, her whole surroundings improve: herself, her family, her community and the wider world we all live in,” says Florencia.
“There is no better place to be working than leading the Avon Foundation Argentina, promoting equality, setting the women’s rights agenda with NGOs, and impacting women’s lives.”
Providing support and funding for family assistance
Meanwhile, in Croatia, Lucija Josipović is a PR and Advertising Senior Specialist for Avon and is key to driving the #IsolatedNotAlone campaign in the region.
Lucija has helped ensure that Family Assistance Association Rijeka (U.Z.O.R.) is one of the front-line NGOs to receive a donation from Avon.
“U.Z.O.R. has a respected and concrete history of work. Founded by experts in the field of violence, especially family and partner abuse, U.Z.O.R. has a shelter and counselling centre for women and children victims of partner and family violence but also a program for the perpetrators of domestic violence as well as the program for juvenile offenders. The organisation always listens to local problems and needs, and recently opened a corner for young people in trouble - a place where they offer not only help but workshops, free education, and assistance with getting employed,” says Lucija.
“It’s really important that U.Z.O.R. has professionals and volunteers working non-stop on its free SOS line as it is the only nation-wide free line for domestic violence help. With principles in working with women victims of domestic violence - such as trusting the women, understanding and accepting the victims, no discrimination, solidarity and transparency work, responsibility of perpetrators for abusive behaviour and creating the safe environment for the victims - their work should be helped and recognized.”
Lucija notes that organisations such as U.Z.O.R often struggle with securing finance and generating funds. She explains that although there is some government funding available, when difficulties arise it is often NGO funding that experience the cuts.
“What’s happening now with the COVID-19 pandemic is exactly that - U.Z.O.R. received information from the government that financial support is not possible as originally agreed. Yet, we all know that the pandemic has made domestic abuse in isolation even worse and that even extra help is needed. So we had to step in and I am really proud of Avon’s response and concrete help through #IsolatedNotAlone.”
Avon has women at its heart
Lucija explains that Avon constantly has benefitting women at the heart of its business. Beyond #IsolatedNotAlone in Croatia Avon assists local associations that support women, and also cancer organisations, through concrete benefits and results and is always carefully identifying where support may be needed next.
“I’m extremely proud to work at Avon as it is certainly the company for women. It proves support each day I work here. Being a concrete part of charitable work means a lot to me. In fact, it’s the part of my job that I most look forward to,” explains Lucija. “Seeing amazing women fighting cancer and still staying positive, plus domestic violence victims finally safe and supported, gives my work purpose and it enriches my life too.”
A call for further women to work at Avon
Lucija concludes with some words of encouragement for further women interested in working for Avon.
“Avon is a great place for women to work. Women not only consist of more than half of the company’s management but our CEO is a woman, Angela Cretu,” comments Lucija. “Angela started in fieldwork, made it to the office and was promoted from year to year until she made it to the top. At Avon everything is possible for a woman. There is no glass ceiling, no mismanagement, and support is available for all hard-working people who want to be recognized and rewarded.”
PARTNER CONTENT: Developed in collaboration to support IWD's Women Empowerment Mission.