We literally wrote history in Hungary. Thanks in large part to a campaign led by Avon and our NGO partners, Hungary just passed its first-ever law against domestic violence – a law that makes domestic violence illegal. NGOs have been fighting for a law like this since the communist regime ended nearly 25 years ago, and everyone at Avon is so proud that we helped make it a reality at last.
One in five women is the victim of domestic violence in Hungary. Yet, domestic violence is still considered a private matter here, a taboo that is not talked about. Well, at Avon we wanted to talk, just like the name of the global Avon campaign: Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.
Our goal was to make sure we collected the 50,000 signatures needed for Parliament to vote on a domestic violence law when it reconvened this past September. With only 60 days to accomplish this daunting task, we were up against a tight deadline. Avon Hungary pulled together Élet-Érték (Life Value) Foundation and other NGOs to launch a massive communications campaign to gather signatures.
We needed to quickly get the word out, educate the public and media on the issue, and get people to sign. Well, if there is one thing Avon knows how to do, it is mobilize people. We organized two press conferences, issued several press releases and enlisted the help of 28 local celebrities, all of which led to 200 news stories! We also met one-on-one with government officials, educated our Sales Leaders and associates on the domestic violence issue and trained them to gather signatures, and held a domestic violence forum with stakeholders, such as politicians, police, doctors, teachers, NGOs and women’s shelters.
To leverage the power of social media, we created a Facebook page dedicated to the issue of domestic violence and produced a powerful video, which shows a little girl signing her own name 50,000 times to save her mom, a victim of domestic violence.
Not only did this video go viral, it also won three prestigious awards at important advertising festivals: one award at the Hipnózis Advertising Festival and two awards at the Arany Penge Advertising Festival. The video was also shortlisted at the PIAF International Advertising Festival, a leading advertising festival in Prague. While we are proud to receive recognition, the important impact of these awards is to further communicate our message.
Well, speaking out against domestic violence worked. We collected 103,000 signatures, which we presented to the Hungarian Electoral Commission. Even though we had more than twice the required number of signatures, we still faced an uphill battle. Contentious debates in Parliament ensued, including Fidesz MP Istvan Varga stating that women should focus on having three to five children before searching for their own identity. As you can imagine, his comments ignited a firestorm, leading to demonstrations on September 11 and 16 in front of the Parliament building in Budapest, including one with women pushing baby carriages.
In the end, our words were heard. On September 17, the Hungarian Parliament unanimously passed a law making domestic violence a punishable act. What an accomplishment! I am so proud to have led this campaign and to be part of the Avon family. The mission of Avon is to be “THE company for women,” and in Hungary, Avon really lived up to that mission and helped change the course of history for all women.
UPDATE: Hungary’s new law against domestic violence goes into effect July 1, 2013.