Take five: “Everyone should understand how they can become an agent of change”


Céline Bonnaire, Executive Director of the Kering Foundation. Photo: Jean Luc Perreard
Céline Bonnaire. Photo: Jean Luc Perreard

Céline Bonnaire is the Executive Director of the Kering Foundation. She also represents the Generation Equality Forum Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence, working to develop catalytic actions and commitments to advance gender equality. Bonnaire prioritizes scaling up comprehensive, accessible and quality services for survivors of gender-based violence against women and girls in all their diversity.

What is the state of gender-based violence around the world and what impact has COVID-19 had on this?

Although awareness of violence against women has increased significantly over the past few years, one in three women worldwide continues to experience physical or sexual violence during her lifetime, mostly perpetrated by an intimate partner. Since the beginning of the pandemic and the strict lockdown measures, data shows an alarming increase in calls to domestic violence helplines and specialist organizations.

Our partner specialist organizations faced increased demand, yet were forced to reduce and/or cancel services, reorganize shelters and helpline staff to ensure safety, find ways to develop new resources and mechanisms to address domestic violence and more. This, of course, had a direct impact on survivors: access to counselling, emergency housing, legal support, and medical appointments became much more difficult.

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“After this Forum, everyone should understand how they can become an agent of change and promote gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence at all levels.”

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We also see that survivors of domestic violence are struggling to remain financially independent and (re)build their autonomy. Women working low-paid and informal jobs are more likely to lose their income during this time: approximately 47 more million women and girls will be pushed to extreme poverty because of COVID-19. This, of course, has a direct impact on women survivors, who may become increasingly dependent on their abuser, making it even more difficult to leave their household. The lack of economic agency also increases women and girls’ vulnerability to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

As we look forward, we must ensure that the specialist organizations supporting survivors have the means and resources necessary to continue providing comprehensive and live-saving services to women.

Why did your organization sign up to play a leadership role in the Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence?

In 2008, Chairman and CEO of Kering, François-Henri Pinault, founded the Kering Foundation to end violence against women. He wanted the Group to focus on a cause where it could make a real difference and we have been focused on this for the past 13 years, with key feminist partnerships at the centre of our strategy.

Our ambition is to share our experience, our network, scale-up our work and mobilize a broader group of companies to join us in combatting gender-based violence. We firmly believe that everyone has a role to play in putting an end to violence against women, and that is why one of the key streams of work that we focus on at the Kering Foundation is around bringing other actors on board to take collective action. This is the same multi-stakeholder cooperation approach that the Action Coalitions are based on, meaning that becoming a leader was a natural step.

The regular and inclusive conversations we have among the leaders of our Action Coalition are about breaking silos, listening to each other’s views and taking a long-term perspective. From these discussions, it has become clear that organizations combatting violence against women are all facing the same challenges, including backlash, a lack of funding and capacity. This recognition has led us to some very concrete ambitions. We have defined clear objectives, targets and indicators, and will make actionable commitments to tackle these barriers – I am confident that we will make effective and transformative change, using an intersectional lens, for women and girls in all their diversity.

What change is most urgently needed in the sphere of gender-based violence, and what action(s) will make a catalytic difference in realizing this?

I think the most urgent needs are highlighted through the four main actions that we have designed in our Action Coalition, which consider the need to have more states ratifying international and regional conventions, as well as more actors in the public and private sector adopting action plans to end gender-based violence.

We also prioritize implementing and financing evidence-driven prevention strategies, particularly those that work with the younger generation to put an end to intergenerational cycles of violence and engage men and boys in the conversation.

Transforming funding is another urgent priority that we highlight. While everyone agrees that women’s rights organizations need to receive better funding, when you look at where the money goes, women- and girls-led organizations are receiving just 7 per cent of global philanthropic funding. That’s why we are focusing on increasing the amount of quality, flexible funding from states, private sector and other donors to girl-led and women’s organizations, as well as the broader need to scale-up and improve financing of coordinated survivor centred services.

What do you expect from the Generation Equality Forum taking place in Paris, from 30 June to 2 July?

An important outcome would be to succeed in securing sets of concrete commitments for gender equality from diverse participants. We have this great leadership group for each Action Coalition, but it is time for new commitment makers to join the initiative and help make change happen. It is especially vital that we get more companies involved and signing up to take steps to put an end to gender-based violence.

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“My #ActForEqual is to continue combating violence against women, by supporting survivors and implementing effective prevention programmes.”

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After this Forum, everyone should understand how they can become an agent of change and promote gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence at all levels. I hope to see increased attention and support for needs-driven, survivor-led organizations that ensure women survivors receive holistic and comprehensive care and access to services. At a personal and societal level, we can act by volunteering and donating to women’s rights organizations, as well as by raising awareness of the vital work they do and the resources they provide.

At the institutional level, in line with the International Labour Organisation Convention 190, I would like to see the implementation of internal systems to support survivors of domestic violence – from trainings to understanding the complexities of this violence and the impact on the workplace, to dedicated internal policies that outline concrete measures in place.

What motivates you personally to keep driving for change?

From a professional standpoint, since day one, I have been constantly amazed by the resilience and the strength of women survivors. I keep doing this work because I think that supporting these women moves us in the right direction and because I want a future where there are no more women that have to be survivors of violence.

In my personal life, I have two children: a boy and a girl. I am raising them as feminists, but can clearly see how harmful stereotypes start early and how difficult it is when the gender equitable messages they receive at home are countered by the messages that they receive at school, on television programmes, video games and so on. It’s very challenging to try and keep the balance and I want to see these gender norms shifted.

Read more about the Action Coalitions here.