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Good morning and welcome to the Ben Franklin Room, which is an appropriate setting for an inventive and electric crowd. A special thank you to Vital Voices and Avon, whose generosity and support made it possible for us to host all of you here today. To Alyse Nelson and Sheri McCoy, this initiative we launch today would not have been possible without you.
I’d also like to thank our NGO and international partners here who have played a vital role in creating this initiative: Promundo-U.S., the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, and the International Organization for Migration. Thank you also to our terrific slate of panelists from this morning’s sessions, and moderators Margaret Brennan and Candy Crowley.
It is my distinct privilege to introduce to you the Deputy Secretary of State, William J. (Bill) Burns., who is not only the most influential diplomat of his generation, but also embodies equality, fairness and decency in everything he does.
Please join me in welcoming Deputy Secretary Burns.
[Deputy Secretary Burns, President and CEO of Vital Voices Alyse Nelson, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products, Inc. Sheri McCoy, and Avon Foundation for Women Global Ambassador Fergie deliver remarks.]
Thank you again for joining us today, thank you to Kat Fotovat, Pat Davis, Barbara Paoletti, Doreen Mullady, Betsy Bramon, and the entire Global Programming office for terrific work making today’s event possible. We look forward to working closely together with all of you to advance efforts to combat gender-based violence worldwide.
Thank you, Alyse. I’m delighted to be here with you today. We applaud the great work that you and Vital Voices are doing to empower women around the world. And we are very proud of the important work we have been able to do together.
And thank you Under Secretary Burns and Acting Assistant Secretary Zeya for your kind words and your hospitality today. We greatly appreciate your commitment to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, and are so proud of the many achievements the Partnership has made possible since it was launched right here in this room back in 2010.
All of you present today are here because you are doing impressive and life-saving work. It’s inspiring to see so many of us come together to advance our shared goal of ending violence against women.
We’ve all heard the statistics, and we know that gender-based violence is a tragic global epidemic that affects more than a billion women around the world.
Avon is the company for women, so we’ve taken this cause to heart. It’s a great privilege for me to lead a company that offers powerful economic opportunities to women. But I am especially proud of Avon’s philanthropic heritage and commitment. Avon’s programs have donated more than $957 million to causes of greatest importance to women around the globe. And we’re determined to continue our work to improve women’s health and safety.
Avon was founded on the central premise that women deserve the opportunity to earn an income to support themselves and their families. More than 125 years later, we have witnessed the powerful ripple effects. When women have the opportunity to earn, their children have greater opportunities to learn. Their families are healthier; their communities are stronger.
But we also know that all around the world, women continue to face barriers to realizing their potential. Their ability to earn income and participate fully in society is too often limited. And domestic violence is a major barrier to the social and economic empowerment of women.
Because of the personal nature of our business model, Our Representatives see, first hand, the devastation of domestic violence in their communities.
It destroys lives. It tears apart families. And it violates the basic dignity and opportunity that every woman deserves.
At Avon, we refuse to accept those harsh realities.
That’s why the Avon Foundation for Women . . . launched our Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative in 2004. Since then, we have donated nearly $60 million dollars to support awareness, education, direct services and prevention programs aimed at stopping family and gender violence in nearly 50 countries.
In the United States, the Avon Foundation for Women has supported programs to stem the epidemic of rape and dating abuse on college campuses. We fund dozens of domestic violence survivor economic empowerment coordinators at Family Justice Centers and other service programs across the country. We fund the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the annual Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services. We’ve funded research on public attitudes and experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault. We support pioneering child trauma counseling programs to end the cycle of family violence. And we’re funding programs that are effectively reducing domestic violence homicides.
Outside the United States, Avon operates in more than 50 countries, and we are also funding programs to reduce gender-based violence in these countries. Recent examples include Avon Hungary working with local NGO partners to gather more than 100,000 signatures for a petition that led to the passage of the country’s first law against domestic violence.
Avon Argentina partnered with the Argentine Association of Women Judges to launch a campaign on gender justice, to train police, hospitals and legal representatives to more effectively assist victims of domestic violence.
Avon Brazil supports their national DV hotline, and Avon’s 1.5 million Representatives spread the word about that hotline, growing annual calls from 1 million to almost 3 million.
Avon Bosnia and Herzegovina created a comprehensive, celebrity-driven media campaign called ‘Hit Me Not Her’ to engage men in helping stem gender violence.
Transformation takes not only commitment but partnership. So in March 2010, the Avon Foundation for Women, Vital Voices and the U.S. Department of State created a public-private partnership….. the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women. It was launched in the belief that a multi-sector approach was essential to reduce violence against women and girls. The Partnership created fifteen country delegations, bringing together leaders from diverse sectors to share insights, forge collaborations, and seek ways to overcome challenging cultural realities that have been barriers to progress.
Avon has continued our support of the Partnership each year since its launch with grants to Partnership delegations for local projects; funding for regional conferences in India, Argentina and South Africa; support for multiple country-wide advocacy campaigns; and, a mentorship program for ten Partnership NGO leaders. We also supported a second Global Summit in Brazil that I was honored to attend in 2012.
With the continued leadership and guidance each step of the way from the team at Vital Voices, and the local US embassies, the Global Partnership delegations have advanced their work and are making meaningful progress in their countries.
We are all part of a global network with a common purpose and responsibility. We know that we must break the cycle of violence for today’s women and tomorrow’s generation of children.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. But I am inspired by what these Global Partnership delegations have already accomplished…..and excited that we are expanding this program.
To describe some of the new initiatives of the Global Partnership, I am proud to introduce a very special member of the Avon family.
She is committed to improving women’s health and advancing women’s empowerment, and has worked with Avon on both of those shared passions.
Please welcome an icon of women’s empowerment, a talented performer, and a new mother, who now has in common with me the responsibility for raising empowered, compassionate and respectful sons!
Please welcome Fergie!
Thank you Sheri. I feel incredibly privileged to work with you and Avon on programs to empower women. Thank you Alyse, for Vital Voices leadership to expand women’s political, economic and human rights around the world. And thank you Under Secretary Burns and Acting Assistant Secretary Zeya, for inviting me to participate in this important program, and for your commitment to addressing the global epidemic of gender violence. I’m honored to be here with you, and with all the men and women who are leading the charge to end gender-based violence.
The statistics shock me– one in three women around the world will be a victim of partner violence in her lifetime. That is totally unacceptable. And that’s why I have joined forces with the Avon Foundation for Women to help Speak Out Against Domestic Violence. I am so proud to partner with Avon — a company that is dedicated to changing women’s lives all over the world through economic opportunities and through its incredible philanthropic efforts. Avon is a company with a conscience that has the courage to take on hard issues like ending violence against women.
But there is still more we must do to ensure that no woman is forced to live in fear.
As Sheri just described, when Avon, Vital Voices and the State Department launched the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women in 2010, the goal of the 15 country delegations that it created, was to find ways to overcome obstacles to reducing violence against women in their countries. Four years later, those delegations are reporting that although each country faces different challenges in its efforts to protect victims of gender-based violence, a common barrier is that existing laws are just not understood or enforced. There are laws to protect women and punish their abusers in many countries, but they aren’t applied effectively and consistently, leaving women unprotected and their perpetrators unaccountable and unpunished.
After observing that universal challenge, Avon, Vital Voices and the State Department have once again collaborated to create a new initiative of their Global Partnership, this time aimed at helping countries to better apply and enforce their laws. I am honored to announce that new initiative today. This new Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence is designed to ensure that laws achieve their promise. It will go even further to protect women who are victims of violence and ensure that they receive justice.
The Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence will create an international training program to help countries create a more holistic response to violence against women. Institutes will be launched in 4 countries this year – India, Nepal, South Africa and Mexico. These Institutes will bring together judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, NGO service providers and advocacy groups for intensive training in their countries. They will learn how to work together more effectively to ensure their country’s laws to protect women are being implemented, and that justice is being served. These first Institutes will serve as models for other countries, with the goal of creating a more just and safe world for victims of violence.
I applaud the State Department, Vital Voices and Avon for continuing to expand their pioneering Global Partnership collaboration to better protect women.
I’m inspired by the terrific programs we’ve heard about today. And I’m also very hopeful, that because of the great work that all of you are doing every day, we will be able to create a world free of gender violence. Thank you all so much!