The theme of International Women's Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge, encouraging people around the world to stand up and declare that they believe in a world that questions gender stereotypes, norms and inequalities. At Essity we work every day to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal #5: Gender Equality. Joséphine Edwall-Björklund, Senior Vice President Communication at Essity, explains what this means not only for Essity, but also for her personally.
I'm proud to say that our company empowers our employees to empower others around the world. Our scale and powerful corporate brand purpose; Breaking Barriers to Well-being, support us to have a meaningful impact on the way people live every day. We created a film to highlight some of the women doing barrier-breaking work with Essity around the world.
We choose to challenge the silence surrounding women's experiences of their bodies in our incontinence and period care campaigns. This conversation is ever-evolving as new voices emerge in our culture. The late Edwina White, that I had the privilege to meet in person, came forward in 2017 to talk about her experience dealing with incontinence in our Fotografiska exhibition, Hygiene - A Circle of Life. Following a cancer diagnosis, she developed new-found gratitude for her body and decided to speak openly about her difficulties with incontinence. Since then, many other voices have surfaced in partnership with our brand TENA aiming to improve self-esteem, mental health and daily life of women.
Another woman that truly inspired me for advocating for gender equal rights is my Chaldean grandmother and opera singer Isobel Ghasal-Öhman. Already in the 1920s she supported women and humanitarian efforts in different ways. Actually, whilst writing this article I received a message from my father’s cousin with screenshots of material where she was recognized with medals by the Ottoman Society of Red Cross for proven humanitarian impact during the General War. She is such an inspiration for me to continue to drive Diversity and Inclusions topics further.
I am also proud of what Essity is doing in these areas. Our Global Marketing & Communications Director in FemCare, Tanja Grubner and team, challenge the narrative around menstruation. Our latest taboo-breaking campaign in the FemCare category aims to close the gender pain gap, particularly for the 176-million women worldwide who suffer from endometriosis. Our brand Libresse’s research in 2020 found that over half of respondents (51% women, 52% men) feel that period pain is just something women must deal with. The Pain Project combines real data and endometriosis sufferers' experiences of pain with artistic expression to create a new language and understanding of the issue.
The work we do with partners like United Nations Foundations advocating for equality everywhere and UNICEF Mexico on children’s hygiene education is extremely important to me. One of the educators in the program, Judith Hernandez now speaks publicly about menstruation taboos and is a strong advocate for fact-based puberty education in girls.
We choose to challenge the isolation people with lymphedema experience. Sarah Jouanny was diagnosed with primary lymphedema after giving birth. She created an online community to share experiences and tips on living a full and active life with lymphedema. Some years ago she joined us to work in communications for our Medical Solutions team at JOBST raising awareness of compression treatment innovations amongst healthcare professionals and lymphedema patients and fostering global online lymphedema communities.
We choose to challenge the way household hygiene responsibilities are divided. Hygiene has no gender, yet a study by UN Women has found that women are taking on more unpaid work in the home during the pandemic. Children learn about gender roles from their parents and messages about the unfair division of unpaid labor between the genders can limit their potential. Our Zewa team in Russia worked with families to find a fairer division of household chores. The ‘Care Well Live Well Together’ campaign used an obstacle course to demonstrate the unequal division of labor between genders when both parents work.
No single person can create gender equality, but everyone has the power to do something. My Essity colleagues are prime examples of what you can achieve when you combine your life experience and passion with expertise to create work with meaningful impact and scale.