Empowerment is an important part of Danone’s social responsibility actions; and more particularly women’s empowerment. Whether in social business or in “classic” business contexts, the Group strives to support equality and help people become the controllers of their own lives. Since November 2011, in accordance with this commitment, Danone Spain and the Danone Ecosystem Fund, in partnership with the Ana Bella Foundation, have been supporting a project to help women subjected to gender-based violence to get a job and start a new phase of their life, free from violence.
Specific violence against women is in fact a key challenge for development, and not just in developing countries. As stated in the presentation of a World Health Organisation report on the connections between the Millennium Development Goals and the prevention of violence against women, “Violence is a major obstacle to development. Violence against women in particular hinders progress in achieving development targets.” According to a number of United Nations directed studies, one in three women around the world suffer gender-related violence at least once in their lifetime, whatever their age or socio-economical situation. In Spain particularly, 2 million women suffer specific violence, according to the Spanish Institute for Women. (Learn more about the context here).
Danone’s commitment to help bring about change finds expression in the joint project of Danone Spain, the Danone Ecosystem Fund and their partner, the Ana Bella Foundation.
Named after its founder, Ana Bella Estévez (a fellow Ashoka), the Foundation carries out the mission “to build a society with equal opportunities, free of violence against women.” It strives to present victims of violence in a positive manner, to depict them as survivors who can overcome their harrowing past and be the leaders of their own lives. And to help them move on, in practical terms.
Towards the eradication of domestic violence
With the support of the Danone Ecosystem Fund, the Ana Bella Foundation runs a School of Social Innovation and Empowerment for Women, to help them become more autonomous in their lives and better integrated into society. The women benefit from personal coaching, social workshops and professional training. And because an important part of the process is to become financially independent, they are offered job opportunities by Danone Spain as sales promoters for the Group’s brands in supermarkets. Each year, 150 women “manage to regain control of their personal life through a proper job,” explains Ana Bella Estévez. On top of committing to diversity and promoting women’s leadership, the project is a means for Danone Spain to recruit and keep salespeople who are qualified and motivated – and thus limit turnover, a major issue in terms of human resources.
Almost two years into the project, the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality signed an agreement with Danone Spain in July 2013, to take things a step further. According to Esther Sarsa Ezquerra, Sustainable Development Manager at Danone Spain, the agreement expresses their common will
to work together to raise awareness about this problem [domestic violence] and promote the victims’ integration into the labour market.
The School of Social Innovation and Empowerment has been recognised by the government as a “best practice to achieve these goals.” The agreement therefore seeks to encourage other companies wishing to take part in the fight against gender-based violence to use the School’s services for their hiring needs – and enable more women to be empowered.
The Spanish government has set itself a goal to eradicate domestic violence, which means both raising awareness and promoting solutions for the victims. Professional reinsertion is a powerful one; and it is to be hoped that the School of Social Innovation and Empowerment will help a growing number of women to reclaim control of their lives in the years to come.
Yesterday (November 25th) was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women : on this occasion the Social School for Women empowerment project has been awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality and therefore recognized as a best practice to fight against domestic violence.