Tonight at the Kennedy Center, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be presenting the Vital Voices Global Trailblazer Award to Melinda French Gates because she redefines the role of women leaders in global development.
Mrs. Gates is the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation here in Seattle.
The award is part of a week long celebration of International Women’s Day in Washington, D.C. including a new global partnership between the Avon Foundation and Vital Voices.
Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women
Earlier today at the State Department, Reese Witherspoon spoke at the Breakfast Meeting of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women. Ms. Witherspoon is the Avon Foundation’s global ambassador.
The Avon Foundation is contributing $500,000 to the State Department’s Fund for Global Women’s Leadership as well as $1.2 million to the Global Partnership. Ms. Witherspoon explained her commitment:
. . .we also need to support the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act. (Applause and cheers.) In too many communities, spousal abuse, rape, and honor killings remain day-to-day realities for many women and girls. This act creates a comprehensive approach to combat violence, from holding perpetrators accountable to supporting survivors and to promoting economic opportunities for them. These are initiatives that all of you are already making possible, and by passing the act we can ensure that they are written into law.
As I look around this room today, I see policy makers, activists, and community leaders, people who have dedicated themselves to making a difference. But I also see mothers and fathers, sisters and daughters, who know the impact that they can make in their own families and communities. And that’s what gives me such hope that we can change things in our time for women everywhere. You understand the impact of speaking up and speaking out in order to create this imperative change in the world.
Women of Courage Awards
This afternoon at the presentation of the Women of Courage awards, Secretary Clinton said:
Avon is our partner here at the State Department in focusing on and trying to end, once and for all, the global epidemic of violence against women. It happens in the homes, it happens in the streets, it happens all over the world. And we have to call it for what it is – a crime – and we have to mobilize to combat it. And Avon has agreed to be our partner in working with the State Department in doing so. And I thank [Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Jung] for taking on this challenge with us.
Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon, explained the company’s commitment to empower women:
At Avon, our commitment to empowering women is grounded in our heritage. Avon was founded almost 125 years ago in 1886 on the simple belief that women had the right to earn money and be economically independent. This was truly a revolutionary idea at a time when women virtually had no role outside the home and would not win the right to vote for another 34 years. But there was no stopping a good idea. Today, with nearly six million representatives serving 300 million women in more than 100 countries, Avon is the company for women. And we have known first hand that improving women’s lives is by empowering them, and that empowering women can make all the difference for their families, for communities, and for countries. And that is why, in addition to helping women achieve financial independence through the business model, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women have, since 1955, awarded more than $725 million in over 50 countries to help women overcome other barriers to independence.
The $500,000 State Department grant will:
. . .provide funds for NGOs that work on domestic and gender violence issues around the world, to help you support the most innovative and successful models being developed, some of which will hopefully emerge from our partnership summit this week. It’s our hope and belief that this gift will accelerate the global effort to end violence among women.
Avon’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Campaign
Ms. Jung concluded her remarks:
Since launching our Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign a few short years ago, Avon has committed more than $16 million to the fight against gender-based violence. In the end, though, we know that it is not about the dollars that makes a difference. It’s also advocacy, solidarity, and the willingness to truly shine a light on an issue that is too often hidden in the dark. In the end, it’s about refusing to accept things as they are, and doing what we can do with what we have to ensure a better tomorrow. So I have no doubt that together, we can and we will end violence against women. We’re so proud of this partnership this afternoon. We see first hand what can happen when, together, we empower women. We see the opportunity, we see the progress, and we see and believe in the hope.
I adore Reese Witherspoon. She’s a wonderful actress, and a good person, which is rare in these times.