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Les Divas: When beauty supports the emancipation of Bangladeshi women

24.11.2016

The Business Call to Action programme is a strong demonstration of how the Shiseido Group incorporates CSR into its strategy. It is a very inspiring example with respect to my HR goals for the EMEA region.

This initiative is intended to involve private companies in a project to support disadvantaged communities in their efforts to attain a sustainable source of development. Within this framework, the Shiseido Group decided to implement an original initiative focusing on Bangladeshi women in rural areas. Bangladesh has a 90% Muslim population. Although the country has made remarkable progress in girls’ education, cultural traditions continue to weigh on many girls and women, often compelling them to interrupt their studies to get married.

As a first step, Shiseido observed the lifestyle of Bangladeshi women in rural areas, where they mostly work outside in the rice paddies. Our Japanese researchers were truly shocked that these women did not use any form of sunscreen, and as a priority wanted to understand the reasons for their behaviour with a view to developing a skincare solution.

The small skincare line called “Les Divas” includes sun protection to meet this requirement, while taking into account criteria related to the users’ lifestyle and cultural preferences. (In this instance, very rich textures and Halal certification are offered.)

Over and above the commercial aspect, this programme also has a significant social and educational dimension. A Bangladeshi partner handled the recruitment of the brand ambassadors, often through fierce negotiations with the families, after which Shiseido took over by offering beauty training focused on basic hygiene practices and nutrition. As ambassadors, these women go from village to village with a comprehensive programme that appeals to this community, and which represents true added value for their role.

The results are extremely positive and encouraging: in very practical terms, the ambassadors’ activity has enhanced their families’ comfort, and their independence is in turn understood to be a virtue. What a great lesson!

I firmly believe that beauty is an empirical path towards recognition for women. Beauty boosts their self-esteem and confidence: it creates a bold attitude. We know that this quality is always a prerequisite in a woman’s career. I have the good fortune of working in the field of beauty. And I am committed to expressing the value of beauty.

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Estelle Bleichner is currently Vice-President of Human Resources at Shiseido Group EMEA, responsible for defining and implementing the Human Resources policy across the Group’s entire scope in the EMEA region (workforce of 3,000 employees).

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