The coronavirus pandemic is having a particularly serious impact on girls and young women. It threatens to turn into a backlash in the efforts for equal rights and female empowerment. COVID-19 therefore seems to be a catalyst for inequality, which results in increased violence, more unpaid (care) work and fewer opportunities for education for girls and young women. With the global “Care Beyond Skin” aid program, which was launched by Beiersdorf in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, this especially vulnerable group will now receive extensive support through long-term projects in nine countries in Africa and Latin America. These ventures began in late 2020 and early 2021 and are projected to reach more than 250,000 people by 2023. They all share a common mission: “EMPOWERING GIRLS”.
Girls and young women: one of the most vulnerable groups
Due to ongoing gender discrimination, access to education, a safe environment, health services and economic opportunities remain a privilege primarily reserved for boys and young men. Girls are still — even in the 2020s — facing many barriers created by social norms, biases, and laws. Even before the pandemic, 130 million girls around the world were not able to attend school and receive an education. The school closures brought about by the pandemic temporarily added 767 million girls. Currently, about eleven million of them are expected to not return to school.
The right to (basic) education is not only considered a human right, but keeping girls in school is crucial to inducing systemic change. Every year that a girl spends in school can boost her future income by 10–20 percent. If all women had a primary education, there would be 15 percent fewer child deaths. Close to 60 percent less girls would become pregnant under the age of 17 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they all had a secondary education. Education therefore means not only school, but also safety, economic resilience and, ultimately, life. By empowering girls and strengthening their access to equitable education and health services, we will be able to initiate lasting systemic change.
EMPOWERING GIRLS is the common mission of Beiersdorf and the NGO partners. Together we want to address the socio-economic consequences of the crisis and aim to bring about a lasting systemic change. The pandemic is likely to create a major backlash to the empowerment of girls and young women, and threatens to reverse the progress that has been made in the past few decades. COVID-19 can become a catalyst for inequality. For girls and young women this means more violence, more unpaid (care) work and less access to education.
Investing in girls and young women to foster systemic change
In their societies and communities, girls and young women enrich structures, and systems in different ways. They solve structural problems, strive for participation in social and political decision-making processes and drive progress, especially in the areas of poverty and climate change, because they are over-proportionally affected by these problems. Investing in girls and young women means therefore creating more resilient communities. Their talents and power are often under-leveraged — by empowering them, the whole world will benefit.
“By ensuring that girls’ and women’s rights are respected across all 17 UN sustainable development goals, we can achieve justice and inclusion, create economies that work for all and preserve our environment now and for future generations.”
For more than 15 years, Plan International has been working in the area of girls’ support. Maike Röttger: “Girls and young women must be given the chance to raise their voices, demand their rights and participate in social and political decision-making processes. By improving their living situation, we give them the freedom and support to participate actively and without fear in their communities and societies.”
CARE has been on the frontline of young women and girls’ empowerment for over 75 years. “We’re particularly proud of tools that have been invented by our teams and the women we work with such as Village Savings and Loans Groups,” says CARE Germany’s CEO Karl-Otto Zentel.
“For 30 years, supporting female entrepreneurship by providing the tools to create female saving groups and help women invest has been a success model replicated by many other NGOs and partners. Financial independence for young women is key to their safety and future and we look forward to working with Beiersdorf to create these opportunities.”
Beiersdorf and its partners
Beiersdorf is now partnering with two strong and globally renowned NGOs that have a long-standing track record in humanitarian and development aid and pursue an impact-oriented approach.
“With our global partnerships with Plan International and CARE, we are stepping up our social engagement and setting a long-term focus on girls’ empowerment. Adolescent girls are particularly at risk to be affected by the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. We want to create a positive impact for girls and young women in Latin America and Africa and I am confident we will achieve this with these two strong partners at our side. Derived of our global “Care Beyond Skin” aid program, we now ‘Care Beyond Skin by Empowering Girls’.” states Stefan De Loecker, Chief Executive Officer of Beiersdorf AG.
PLAN INTERNATIONAL & BEIERSDORF
Together with Plan International, we aim to improve adolescent girls’ agency to exercise their rights to education and protection from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during COVID-19 and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic is currently preventing millions of girls from attending school, not only keeping girls from exercising their right to education, but also exposing them to a higher risk of intra-family violence and sexual abuse. Plan International and Beiersdorf support projects to restore access to education (e.g. through remote learning opportunities), provide information on domestic violence, and offer girls help and access to protection services. The projects have been running since October 2020 in Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil and from February 2021 will be extended to Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.
“I am very pleased that in these challenging times Beiersdorf and Plan International will work together to empower girls, so they are seen, heard and appreciated in all their diversity and have the chance to lead an equal and self-determined life. Based on many decades of project experience, we know that everyone will benefit from this in the long-term,” says Maike Röttger, CEO Plan International Germany.
CARE & BEIERSDORF
Together with CARE, we will focus on improving the access to equitable and qualitative health services for girls, women and their communities. We will also work to increase their economic resilience against the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. Hygiene and healthcare are essential, especially in times of a pandemic. By supporting healthcare facilities and training healthcare workers, CARE will improve the health and well-being of women, girls and their communities. Economic resilience is ensured, for example, by the support of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), a successful micro-financing-model at community level that CARE invented in 1991. It empowers girls, women, and their families to invest in income generating activities, overcoming the vicious cycle of poverty. The projects officially start in January 2021 and will operate in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan.
Karl-Otto Zentel, CEO of CARE: “This partnership with Beiersdorf supports our work to empower women and young girls in East Africa, and to offer them the help they need so urgently. Past epidemics have shown that health facilities tend to deprioritize maternal health services and women don’t always have a voice to make their needs heard.”
“A shutdown of services can ultimately cause more deaths than the epidemic itself. We are grateful to work alongside Beiersdorf to protect women and their children in these times of crisis, to ensure adequate healthcare and to offer them opportunities to earn money and feed their families.”
Global aid program “Care Beyond Skin”
In March 2020, right at the beginning and shortly before the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Beiersdorf launched the largest aid program in its corporate history. “Care Beyond Skin” comprises of €50 million and is based on two pillars: immediate aid and long-term support to combat the effects of the pandemic. The program focuses on regions that are epicenters of the disease with weak public healthcare systems and targets the most vulnerable groups and their communities. In the area of long-term support, Beiersdorf is building on partnerships with internationally renowned non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which, under the idea and mission of “EMPOWERING GIRLS”, provide targeted support for girls and young women who suffer from the COVID-19 crisis in various areas of their daily life.
As part of the COVID-19 aid program, Beiersdorf also supports social innovators together with our partner Ashoka. We are providing funds to five so-called “Changemakers” that dedicate their work towards girls and young women in the fight against COVID-19 consequences. Find out more about our social entrepreneurs and their projects here.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26)