The numbers are alarming: One in three women around the world will be a victim of gender violence, and one in eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
While the statistics are tragic, they have inspired Avon and the Avon Foundation to make a real impact and improve the lives of women globally. The partners reached a major milestone in 2016, having contributed over $1 billion to causes that matter most to women—specifically breast cancer and domestic violence—in more than 50 countries. In the company’s 130th year of empowering women, the announcement is part of a decades-long collective effort supported through Avon cause-related products, AVON 39 The Walk To End Breast Cancer donations, and Avon Walk Around the World events.
Avon and the Avon Foundation’s widespread efforts, spanning the globe over several decades, has allowed the beloved beauty brand to grow into an international corporate icon that offers women not only a chance for economic independence, but support of important global causes and issues.
The early years
When founder David H. McConnell started Avon (then called California Perfume Company) in 1886 as a door-to-door sales company with a small line of perfumes, he stated one of the goals was “to meet fully the obligations of corporate citizenship by contributing to the well-being of society and the environment in which it functions.” It started with an impactful concept: to offer women a way to create and manage their own businesses, long before women had access to make significant impact in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds, or could even legally vote in the United States. Today, nearly six million Representatives worldwide empower themselves with financial independence, serve as mentors, leaders and activists, and continue to inspire new generations of global citizens.
It all started with a pin
Avon launched its Breast Cancer Crusade in 1992, when Avon United Kingdom began selling pink ribbon products, one of the first cause-marketing programs in the world. By the following year, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade was adopted in the United States and dozens of other Avon markets. Now, more than 50 Avon countries support the Breast Cancer Crusade, and every October Avon introduces new breast cancer awareness programs and fundraising products, from bracelets and watches to ear buds and accessories. Since the sale of its first Pink Ribbon product in 1992, Avon has raised more than $321 million for the breast cancer cause through Pink product sales, thanks to the loyal support of Avon Representatives and customers who wholeheartedly believe in the mission and quality of the products.
A commitment to research
The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade has enabled more than 18 million women globally to receive free mammograms and screenings, and has educated more than 145 million women about breast cancer causes. In addition to screenings, the Crusade encompasses programs that provide financial assistance to beneficiaries, ranging from leading cancer centers to community-based non-profit breast health programs, creating a powerful international network of research, medical, social service and community-based organizations focused on defeating breast cancer and ensuring access to care.
Avon walks on
Since 2003, AVON 39 walks have raised nearly $590 million through the dedication of 220,000 women and men from across the country who participate in the annual two-day, 39.3-mile trek in seven cities across the country. The money raised by 39ers helps raise awareness and the funds that support Centers of Excellence, among other breast health initiatives. Dedicated 39ers have collectively walked 6,868,000 miles with smiles, determination and a sense of humor.
The crusade continues
In April 2016, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade will welcome its third class of global scholars to a program has already granted training to 47 global scholars from 22 countries. The doctors are able to return to their countries and educate other doctors about the strategies and techniques learned, improving care for their patients and advising the Avon Breast Cancer Crusades in their home countries.
Avon expands its efforts
Wanting to make even more of an impact worldwide, in 2004 Avon took on a second cause based on research that domestic and gender violence and dating abuse were among the top three causes of concern to women in every Avon market. That same year, the Avon Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative launched, and has since contributed nearly $60 million across the world to related causes. One of the chief goals is to break the silence that surrounds domestic and gender violence and abuse. By encouraging conversation about domestic violence, and by providing services and outreach for victims, the program aims to interrupt the cycle of violence for victims and their families.
Awareness goes global
Many countries have laws against domestic violence, but often they are not well known or understood, face challenges from cultural traditions, or are not well enforced. As part of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, a collaboration between the Avon Foundation, Vital Voices and the U.S. Department of State, the Foundation launched the Justice Institutes on Gender-Based Violence in 2014. These four-day programs conducted by U.S. and international experts train and unite judges, prosecutors, service providers and law enforcement officers to help them better understand how to implement laws to save lives in their communities. To date, Avon has launched Justice Institutes in South Africa, Mexico, India, Brazil, and Nepal, with five more to come in 2016.
Photos courtesy of Avon Foundation for Women and Hagley Museum & Library