To raise awareness of International Women’s Day, Avon and the Virtue Foundation teamed up to host the Global Summit for a Better Tomorrow at the United Nations Wednesday. Attendees of the summit listened to panel discussions on issues facing women, such as health care, education and economic empowerment.

“We’re celebrating how far women have come,” said Andrea Jung, Avon’s chairman and chief executive officer. “It’s our responsibility as a company to provide women a better tomorrow, and the most effective way to change the world is to start by changing the lives of women.”

Cosponsored by UNICEF, UNIFEM and UN-DESA, the summit welcomed 400 women, including leaders from the media and nonprofit organizations. Melina Kanakaredes, from the TV show “CSI,” and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson were both on hand to share their personal stories.

Hudson, who recently signed with Avon to become the face of the company’s Imari fragrance, said that her dreams came true because of the people in her life. She added that she was proud to be associated with a company that seeks to empower women.

“This partnership is so exciting to me,” said Hudson, who was sporting the new Imari Seduction fragrance. “What excites me most about it is that it supports a good cause.”

Keynote speaker Shashi Tharoor, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, raised public awareness about critical global issues that women are currently facing. Other speakers included Joan Larovere, Sara James, Alexis Glick, Noeleen Heyzer and Ann Veneman.

The summit is the first in a series of events Avon has planned around International Women’s Day that include the Avon Worldwide Women’s Poll and Empowerment Index, Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund and the Foundation’s Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative. The message of “empower women, change our world” resonates with Avon’s corporate philosophy, while tying into Avon’s International Women’s Day programs, said the company.

At the summit, Avon revealed the results of its first annual Avon Worldwide Women’s Poll and Empowerment Index, a survey of 8,500 women from 16 countries commissioned by Avon to measure the satisfaction women feel in education, employment, economic independence, personal safety, health and political participation. According to Jung, the index, measured on a scale from 1 to 100, showed that 64 percent of women believe they are two-thirds of the way on their journeys to “full empowerment”; 91 percent of women said they were satisfied with the control they have over their lives.

This story first appeared in the March 9, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“There are still areas for improvement, but we’re getting closer to closing the gap,” said Jung.

As part of the International Women’s Day initiative, the company also introduced the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund, which will donate $5,000 each week to an individual for advancing the interests of women and improving society through awareness and outreach, business development or community service. The program will be implemented in 18 countries. In addition, the company announced the $5 million Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Prevention Research Initiative designed to improve the resources available to women who lack adequate medical assistance in detecting breast cancer.

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