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t’s time to unmute the silence on domestic violence

It’s time to end the silence on domestic violence

We’re making our Global Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy available to other employers to help those that don’t have one put measures in place

As the world continues to fight Covid-19, a shadow pandemic is on the rise. According to the United Nations, cases of domestic violence during lockdown have increased by 20%.

Even before the additional strains put on individuals by Covid-19, UN figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. On top of this, fear and stigma can mean that as many as 60% of cases go unreported.

Domestic violence can be physical or psychological, and it can affect anyone of any age, gender, race or sexual orientation. The human cost is immeasurable. But alongside the physical and emotional toll, there is a significant economic impact. Loss of income, absenteeism and a fall in productivity financially impacts individuals and their families and society at large.

An opportunity for businesses to take action

“One-third of our adult lives is spent at work,” says Aline Santos, EVP, Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “This puts employers like Unilever in a unique position to create a workplace culture where people know they can access support safely and securely.

“We have pledged to proactively create a safe and inclusive workplace,” she adds. “One where employees can seek help without stigma and where staff have access to basic training to know how to respond appropriately if they feel a colleague is potentially at risk.

“All of this is detailed in our Global Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy (PDF 115KB) which ensures staff are provided with access to ‘safe leave’, flexible working conditions and access to counselling and support services should they ever need them,” she adds.

To this end, in a business first on International Women’s Day, Unilever is offering businesses and organisations open access to its policy and how it supports colleagues who have experienced abuse. “We hope that by sharing what we have learnt shaping our policy, it will help employers that currently don’t have anything in place,” Aline says.

Learning the power of speaking out from #MeToo’s Tarana Burke

Domestic abuse thrives in secrecy. Creating an environment where people felt able to disclose their experience without stigma was a powerful lesson that was brought to light by the #MeToo movement.

To continue our learning in this space, founder of the #MeToo movement Tarana Burke will take part in a LinkedIn live with Aline Santos on 4 March.

The event will also see the launch of #Unmute, a campaign urging action to end the silence on domestic violence.

Speaking out to end the silence

“Our work to tackle domestic abuse is a long-term commitment,” says Aline. “Beyond marking International Women’s Day, we will work to provide ongoing support for employees who disclose abuse. We’ll also add our voice to end the silence on domestic violence and ensure that we can raise awareness of resources such as the UN’s Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

“Through these initiatives we hope to encourage people inside and outside Unilever to speak out and help victims of domestic violence be heard,” she says. “Together we can work towards a future in which violence towards any human becomes a thing of the past.”

Beyond the workplace and into the communities we serve

Beyond the workplace and into the communities we serve

Alongside the work to ensure the safety of our colleagues. Three of our brands are working to support, educate and advocate against gender-based violence as part of their purpose

Providing a safe space for that first difficult conversation.

In South Africa, one in five women has experienced physical violence and 60,000 women and children are victims of domestic violence. Tea brand Joko has partnered with POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), an NGO that provides shelter, counselling and legal advice for victims of abuse. A joint #EndDomesticSilence campaign aims to give women a safe space to have that first difficult conversation. The partnership has also developed three guides that give people the option to support, educate or advocate to stop the cycle of abuse.

Find out more about the partnership here.

Offering access to online self-defence lessons

In India, our Hamam soap brand is empowering women to take action for themselves and if they see a child in danger. Visitors to the brand’s website can access online self-defence classes that show how to manage a series of scenarios to help them.


Mother-daughter bond promotes toll free helpline

In 2020, Unilever South Asia launched a gender-neutral policy for survivors of domestic abuse called #UnMute #ULSAstandsforWomensSafety. To dial up awareness of the campaign, our hair brand Clinic Plus is running a campaign showing the bond between a mother and daughter. In a role reversal, the daughter tells her mother to be strong and speak up. It also provides a link to a toll-free government helpline number and to Clinic Plus webpages which will contain resources and expert advice.