Funder’s Forum: The Avon Foundation for Women

Avon Foundation for Women, established in 1955, is the world's largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused solely on issues that matter most to women. We asked Christine Jaworsky, program director for the foundation's Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program:

Q: What has informed the Avon Foundation's focus on breast cancer research and access to care and its efforts to reduce domestic and gender violence? What are some of your successes in these areas, and how are they supported?

“Since 1955, Avon has made critical progress in our mission to improve the health and safety of women and their families. Avon Associates and Sales Representatives cherish our philanthropic legacy — in fact, many of them join Avon, or stay, precisely because of it — and they take great pride in Avon's record of achievement, because they see every day how the devastation of breast cancer and domestic violence affects so many women and families in the communities they serve.

“Since the Avon Foundation for Women launched its Breast Cancer Crusade in 1992, Avon breast cancer programs in more than 50 countries have contributed more than $800 million for research and advancing access to quality care for all, helping to make Avon the largest corporate supporter of the breast cancer cause globally. Avon launched its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program in 2004. Since then, Avon has become a funding and programmatic leader for that cause, having contributed almost $60 million in nearly 50 countries to reduce and prevent domestic violence.

“Today Avon is leading global efforts for the domestic violence cause, one that few other companies or funders address. Although breast cancer and domestic violence may seem very different, they are similar in many ways. When Avon launched its Breast Cancer Crusade in 1992, people didn't talk about the disease easily or publicly, and it was often connected to shame and stereotype. That has changed dramatically, and today there is a very robust dialogue fueled by passionate supporters and survivors. Today, many people don't talk about domestic violence; it too is plagued by shame, misunderstanding, and fear.

Avon Foundation-funded research indicates that 80 percent of Americans think this is a major problem in our society, and 60 percent actually know a victim, yet have not talked about violence with their friends, families, or their own children. Our Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program is helping to change these numbers — just as we helped start the conversations about breast cancer. Informed by these research findings, one recent grant we provided was to fund the creation of See the Signs, Speak Out: Become an Upstander, Learn How. Our survey respondents said they want to intervene to stop the violence but don't know how: this bystander training program will help start conversations.

“While the majority of funds to support the Breast Cancer Crusade are generated from AVON 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer in the U.S. and other breast cancer events hosted around the world, almost all of the funds for Speak Out Against Domestic Violence are generated by Avon Sales Representatives who raise funds by selling affordably priced fundraising products from which a portion of the proceeds is donated to the Speak Out program. In the U.S., too, Avon Products, Inc. provides a generous donation and in-kind services so that the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade and Speak Out programs can continue to have far-reaching results.

“Empowering women is the fundamental connection between Avon's two causes, and the Avon Foundation for Women is proud to lead these efforts as we work to improve the lives of women globally.”

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