Unilever and Oxfam launch pilot project to enhance women’s livelihoods for a more sustainable future in Thailand

Published: 14th August 2012

Bangkok, August 15, 2012 – Unilever, in partnership with Oxfam, one of the world’s leading development organizations, today announced the launch of a program to “enhance women’s livelihoods in Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani”, in Thailand. This pilot program is focused on women affected by violence in these three southern border provinces, and aims to build their basic skills for sustainable farming and develop their business acumen, in order to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their families.

This partnership is part of the global Unilever Foundation, an initiative dedicated to improving quality of life through the provision of hygiene, sanitation, access to clean drinking water, basic nutrition and enhancing self-esteem.

Unilever aims to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental impact and delivering increased social value. Along with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, the Unilever Foundation is a key action taken by the Company to help meet its ambitious goal of helping more than one billion people improve their health and well-being and, in turn, create a sustainable future.

In Thailand, Unilever Foundation has joined with Oxfam, a leading international development organization working intensively to eradicate poverty and relieve hardship, to initiate a program to “enhance women’s livelihoods in Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani”. The program aims to build basic occupational skills such as sustainable farming and business knowledge, together with building a network for the women in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat in order to enhance their well-being and capacity to shape a more sustainable future.

In his opening address Mr. Bauke Rouwers, Chairman of the Unilever Thai Group of Companies, described this program as a joint effort to share resources and capacities between a business organization and a private development organization, to resolve social issues and be a starting point to promote sustainable living; which will lead to solutions of poverty challenges and women’s inequality in the three deep-south provinces, where many women are directly affected by the existing conflict situation.

“What’s important for this group of women is empowerment and securing better livelihoods by enhancing their occupational skills, which will make them capable of supporting themselves and their families in the future as the main income earner,” Mr. Rouwers said.

Ms. Sarah Ireland, Regional Director of Oxfam GB in Asia, added that both Buddhist and Muslim women in the three southern border provinces are facing a problem, which is in need of urgent advocacy, because of the violent situation that has caused the loss of the heads of families, husbands and sons who were the major income earners for their families. These women have to step up and take over the burden of supporting their families instead of the men.

“Our experience of working with people in poverty from around the world and previous studies found that women are key variables in supporting development work and sustaining its effect because women are the ones taking care of families and managing their budgets. Therefore, helping women to have their own occupations, and to be aware of and enhance their capacities will help in resolving their problems and promote sustainable living,” said Ms. Ireland.

The program comprises eight major activities:

  1. Support sustainable national resources rehabilitation
  2. Marketing training for women
  3. Creation of an economic development fund
  4. Training of women on food production skills
  5. Livelihood support training and monitoring visits for selected women / groups
  6. Women Economic Leadership training
  7. Research paper on building women’s leadership in economic development
  8. Establishment of women’s network for marketing support.

The main goal of these activities is to enhance the livelihoods of 500 women from 60 communities affected directly by the conflict and build a network to promote female leadership roles by 2013, together with an expectation to expand the program to neighbouring communities.

The Unilever Foundation also works in partnership with other private development organizations such as PSI, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the World Food Program with similar goals.

In his closing remarks Mr. Bauke Rouwers, stressed that this program is one of many designed to contribute to the sustainable development of Thailand. The other initiatives are business driven and aimed at achieving Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan’s goals, of helping one billion people around the world to improve their health and enhance their livelihoods, halving the environmental footprint of our product and sourcing all agricultural inputs sustainably, by 2020.

As part of these initiatives Unilever Thailand aims to encourage more sustainable farming, enhance the health and nutrition of the Thai people, and contribute towards improving the overall environment in the country by reducing greenhouses gases, saving precious water resources and an overall reduction in waste by increased recycling.

What’s important for this group of women is empowerment and securing better livelihoods by enhancing their occupational skills.
Bauke Rouwers
Chairman of the Unilever Thai Group of Companies

Notes to editors

About Unilever 
Unilever works to create a better future every day. We help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others.

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with strong operations in over 100 countries. Consumers buy 170 billion Unilever packs around the world every year. Our products are sold in more than 190 countries with 2 billion consumers worldwide using a Unilever product on any given day.

Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including twelve €1 billion brands, and global leadership in most categories in which we operate. The portfolio features iconic brands such as: Knorr, Dove, Lipton, Becel/Flora, Blue Band/Rama/Country Crock, Wall’s/OLA/Langnese, Hellmann’s, Calvé, Unox, Pond’s, Lux, Axe/Lynx, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Rexona/Sure, Omo, Surf, Cif, Signal and Glorix/Domestos.

In 2010 Unilever has launched the “Unilever Sustainable Living Plan”. The plan aims to halve the environmental impact of its products by 2020 as well as work towards improving the quality of life of its consumers which covers three pillars: improve health and well being, reducing environmental impact and enhancing livelihoods. For more information please visit www.sustainable-living.unilever.com

In Thailand, where Unilever has been actively serving Thai consumers for 80 years, Unilever’s portfolio includes major brand icons such as: Breeze, Omo, All, Sunlight, Comfort, Lux, Vaseline, Citra, Sunsilk, Clear, Pond’s, Dove, Axe, Rexona, Close up, Knorr, Wall’s, Bestfoods, Lipton and luxury division Aviance.

Unilever Thailand employs around 2,700 people and generated annual sales of over Baht 40,000 million in 2011. For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.co.th.

About Oxfam 
Oxfam is one of the world’s leading development organizations, which aims to provide humanitarian aid through collaboration with local development organisations in many countries to eradicate poverty and relieve the hardship of those affected by disasters and war. Oxfam currently conducts 92 programmes all over the world. This programme is part of a global partnership between Oxfam and the Unilever Foundation to improve the quality of life for a better future for people around the world. More information please visit www.oxfam.org

Contact information

For more information, please contact:

Dow Punpiputt, Regional Communications Coordinator, Oxfam GB, Bangkok: DPunpiputt@oxfam.org.uk / +66 2 632 0033 #103

Related links

Oxfam Gender blog