What Role Can Business Play in Addressing Issues Around Gender-Based Violence?

Join us for a live written online discussion with a panel of experts to explore the role business can play in addressing issues around gender-based violence.

Live Panel

Thursday 28 March, 15:00-16:00 GMT / 11:00-12.00 EDT . ADD TO CALENDAR


More than ⅓ of people will experience gender based violence (GBV) in their lifetimes. Annual productivity losses caused by sexual harassment alone in a typical Fortune 500 company are estimated to be around US$6.7 million. In June this year, a new ILO convention could be adopted which will require governments and employers to systematically address violence, including gender based violence, and harassment in the world of work.

Companies are engaging with the issue and introducing policies to reduce incidences of GBV and its effects, but GBV still has a high prevalence, the work can be fragmented and business insight of successful actions is sparse. This online written discussion aims to shed light on the ways companies can and are pro-actively engaging with gender based violence.

We are bringing together experts from across sectors and global regions to share their insights and experience. This discussion will be useful to you, whether you are from an organisation taking your first steps in trying to understand how gender-based violence affects your business, right through to those who have been expertly working on this topic for some time. You can expect practical learnings, real insight and peer support.


Alice Allan, Challenge Expert, Business Fights Poverty
Aditi Mohapatra, Director, Women’s Empowerment, BSR
Chiara Condi, President and Founder, Led by HER
Katja Freiwald, Global Director Global Partnerships, Unilever
Laura Hawkesford, Head of Private Sector Engagement, CARE International UK
Diana Baird, Principal SD Specialist, International Finance Corporation, (IFC)
Neta Meidav, Co-Founder & CEO, Vault Platform

With additional contributions from Shabnam Hameed, Operations Officer, Gender, IFC and Dean Laplonge, International Gender and GBV Specialist, Factive Consulting

Moderator: Katie Hyson, Director of Insights, Business Fights Poverty


  1. Why is gender-based violence an important topic businesses should be thinking about?

  2. What are the best examples of business approaches and interventions to prevent and respond to gender-based violence?

  3. How can businesses and other organisations collaborate to address gender-based violence in workplaces and communities?

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À quelle date peut on commencer l’envoi de nos écrits.
Car je souhaite immensément prendre part à ce challenge qui est très important pour l’Afrique !

En réalité la violence Basée sur le Genre dans nos familles et le harcèlement sexuel dans nos entreprises et services constituent de véritables freins à l’épanouissement de la femme , donc un goulot d’étranglement à l’économie des familles. Je m’etendrais très prochainement sur la question si l’occasion m’en donnée.
À bientôt chers collègues

merci pour votre réponse et votre enthousiasme. La partie en direct de cette discussion écrite en ligne aura lieu le 28 mars. Vous pouvez également vous inscrire au Challenge pour en savoir plus et partager vos idées ici: https://businessfightspoverty.org/articles/challenges/what-role-can-business-play-in-tackling-based-violence /

Looking forward to beginning the LIVE discussion in 10 mins

Just to check - is this working and are we online?

Yes, we can see you Katja

Welcome to this Online Written Discussion.
Today we are exploring:

What Role Can Business Play in Addressing Issues Around Gender-Based Violence?

First of all, could I ask each of our panellists to introduce themselves?

Hi - I am Katja Freiwald , leading at Unilever our partnerships and advocacy work around gender-equality and enhancing livelihoods.


Yes I am Chiara Condi I am women’s empowerment/gender equality advocate and I created an organization called Led by HER, which has a program to help women who have suffered from violence rebuild their lives through entrepreneurship

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Hello all,

My apologies, there is a technical gremlin that we are just trying to fix. Hoping to get going in the next 5 mins

We’ll start with our first question now, and then hopefully we’ll be able to get those having difficulties logging in - up and running asap.

Q 1: Why is gender-based violence an important topic businesses should be thinking about?

In my experience dealing with women who have suffered from violence we underestimate the effects that violence has on the life of a woman. She is often absent, sick, she has to deal with years of court cases and usually constant harassment from former partners, as well as the burden of being a single parent. This means that violence has a true impact on the way women show up to work because it so profoundly impacts their lives. Studies show that women who have suffered from violence are present 10% less on their jobs than women who have not. Many of them end up losing their jobs. Given how many women are impacted around the world the cost on business must be huge. However business can also be part of the solution for example by giving women days off to deal with their situations etc to ensure that women are in the best possible mental condition to deal with their situation and come back to their workplace.

Companies should invest massively in promoting gender equality to effectively respond to violence. This is the long term solution that will eliminate violence because inequality is at the origin of all violence. This means that we have to look at how the company across the board is treating women, we cannot look at gender based violence as an isolated subject.

Addressing GBV/Sexual Harassment is first and foremost a matter of respecting HR that need to be respected by everybody. A concrete example: Unilever is the biggest buyer of black tea in the world employing/working with thousands of farmers/workers in our or our suppliers’ estates. Why have we embedded a strong human rights approach inclusive of addressing GBV in Unilever Tea Estates? There are four compelling reasons for embedding human rights in our tea operations. These are:
• It is the “human” thing to do, the right and smart thing to do
• It drives productivity and builds resilient value chains if our workers:

  1. Feel safe and respected
  2. Improves health & well-being and reduces sick leave
  3. Have a sense of belonging
  4. Do things differently to deliver on their commitments
    • It strengthens implementation of principles in certification related to labor conditions ad worker rights.
    • It enhances the company’s reputation and help to retain female workforce
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Awareness raising inside a company about gender inequality issues also has the power to transform these issues in the outside community

I fully agree - we have seen how our work within Unilever for example in our tea plantations around women’s safety has started to change the entire community and even more it insprires action of other producers.

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Hi Laura, Dean - really valuable input. One experience I see that often conversations with businesses unfortunately are going more about ‘economic empowerment’- often businesses shy away to tackle the ‘hard’ issues , we need to educate more that without tackling GBV there is no full economic empowerment.

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At Led By HER we have developed different formats to work with companies directly with women who have suffered from violence to support them on their entrepreneurship projects. This helps companies have their employees directly work on the question of violence and gender inequality. This can be a great way to promote awareness about the topic and change people through direct experience rather than simply through policy. The people we work with will then go back to their companies and be ambassadors that can share what they learned with their colleagues, etc creating a larger company-wide effect.

Really interesting Chiara - at Unilever we also look now on how to drive more holistic approaches to ‘Economic Empowerment’- we speak about the Tripod of Rights - Skills - Opportunitie as a simple way to make this complex topic understood internally and share this with other businesses as well. Partnerships are core in all of this .

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