HOW DO you raise strong and confident daughters and sons respectful to women? By talking to them, according to actress Reese Witherspoon.
“It’s important to instill in them the idea that it’s very important to respect women, and for a woman to speak out to her partner [so that he] respects you,” Witherspoon said, speaking via phone patch from Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday.
The Oscar-winning actress was at the kick-off of the 16-city “Avon Believe World Tour,” a global effort underscoring the company’s heritage of empowering women. The event jumpstarted Avon’s 125th anniversary celebration.
Since 2007, Witherspoon has been Avon’s global ambassador and honorary chair of Avon Foundation, a charity that supports women, with special focus on breast cancer awareness and prevention of domestic violence.
“One of the main points we talk about at the Avon Foundation is education, talking about things,” she noted. “It’s important to begin speaking about these issues with your children before they’re in that age where they start to leave home and want to hang out with their peers. The best thing you can do as a mother is to talk to your kids about these issues, hopefully before they come up in their lives.”
1 of 3 women
Witherspoon has two children, Ava, 11, and Deacon, 7, with ex-husband Ryan Philippe. Her children are aware of what she does for Avon which, she said, has given her the opportunity to travel the world, and to see up close Avon’s “incredible impact on individual women’s lives.”
“It became apparent to me how domestic violence is prevalent throughout the world. The statistic is that one out of three women are affected. It’s an epidemic. [Even] as a celebrity, it has touched my own life through friends and personal experiences. I don’t think there’s a woman on earth that hasn’t had this experience either by themselves, or through their friends, their mother. It has been a great opportunity to work with Avon Foundation about education, through programs preventing domestic violence, and also their work with helping domestic violence shelters and legislation to end domestic violence.”
She added, “I think it’s important for my children to see that this is a responsibility, to give to each other and take care of each other as a global community. My children are very proud of the work that I do with Avon. It’s a great source of pride for my family.”
At the Atlanta event, Witherspoon and Avon chair and CEO Andrea Jung announced the creation of a $1 million Avon Global Believe Fund, in support of domestic violence shelters in its 16-city stops, which includes Manila on Aug. 2.
Jung will be present at the event, which will coincide with Avon’s National Sales Convention at the Araneta Coliseum.
The 16 cities indicate Avon’s top global markets. The Philippines is its No. 1 market in all segments in the Asia-Pacific; it’s among the top 10 in the world, according to Louie Migne, Avon’s communications head for Asia-Pacific; 2011 marks Avon’s 32nd year in the country.
Avon Foundation is partnering with the National Network to End Domestic Violence in choosing and funding a global network of nonprofit organizations in support of victims of domestic violence.
“As the company for women, Avon feels an obligation and responsibility to play a leadership role in helping improve the lives of women around the world, and we truly believe we can make a difference,” Jung said in a statement.
“Avon was founded in 1886, 34 years before women in the US won the right to vote, on the then-revolutionary concept that women could earn an independent income, and achieve financial freedom and personal empowerment. Decade in and decade out, the ‘Avon lady’ has been at the forefront of the changing role of women.
“Today, Avon is the largest engine of economic opportunity for women on earth, serving more than six million Avon representatives in over 100 countries. In addition, the Avon Foundation for Women is the largest corporate-affiliated philanthropy focused on issues that matter most to women, and Avon global philanthropy has donated more than $800 million to improve women’s health and safety around the world.”
As part of its 125th-year celebration, Avon launched in December Avon Voices (www.avonvoices.com), a global online singing and songwriting competition, where the winner stands to win a trip to Hollywood for the finals and record an album.
It has a stellar panel of judges, including Fergie, Diane Warren, Natasha Bedingfield and Lea Salonga, a former Avon spokesperson. (Deadline is on Feb. 13.)
In March, Avon will roll out its first-ever global one-look brochure for two weeks, the cover of which is adorned with the faces of the direct-selling brand’s models and spokespersons, including Witherspoon, Salma Hayek, Fergie, Ruffa Gutierrez and one Filipina sales representative.
Women’s issues, just like the brand she represents, are close to Witherspoon’s heart. “Being a working mom, I try to do different kinds of work that give back to the communities that support my work,” she said.
Apart from her own working-woman mother and grandmother who “worked very closely in raising my brother and me,” the actress said she finds heroes in the women she has worked with in the past two years at Avon Foundation.
“Women who imparted a work ethic… They’re incredibly inspiring. I’ve also met Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton; they’re very inspiring in their work.”
More than nurturing outward beauty, Witherspoon said she relates to Avon brand’s idea of “empowering and creating opportunities to strengthen women so that they can take care of their children. I think that provides greater comfort. I think that’s better than the external.”