D.I.Re Donna
Lidl and D.i.Re's program that supports economic independence for victims of violence

Violence against women is a phenomenon that has become, in terms of the number of cases, a real problem in modern society. It is a collective suffering that generates the social need to develop concrete initiatives, both public and private, with the aim of combating the phenomenon and spreading a culture aimed at “doing” in favor of victims. Large retail signs are also dealing with the problem, collaborating with associations that work to rescue and support women who experience violence. As Coop, which this year established the “Silence Speaks” campaign together with Woman Difference, the association that operates the anti-violence number 1522. Or “Carrefour for Her,” the sale of cyclamen plants launched by Carrefour Italy to collect donations to support a “Women’s Space” of WeWorld Onlus. Or yet Pam Panorama, which through “Together to Support Pangea” is collecting donations for Pangea Onlus Foundation.

One of the lesser-known and more difficult to identify aspects of violence against women is that concerning economic independence. According to the report published in 2023 by the Association D.i.Re – Women’s Network Against Violence, 32.2 percent of Italian women and about 60 percent of refugee and asylum-seeking women experienced economic violence in our country last year. Moreover, according to data collected by ISTAT in 2020, less than half of the women who come to the Anti-Violence Centers are not economically independent, and economic uncertainty increases greatly for those in the age group up to 29 years old, that is, those who are in training or seeking employment. So, to counter this phenomenon, there is also a need to provide victims with concrete opportunities to become independent and build a future life for themselves.

One of Filiera Agricola Italiana’s partners, Lidl Italia, is well aware of this, and in 2022 it launched a social inclusion project aimed precisely at this end. The project, entitled. “Say Woman” and implemented in collaboration with the aforementioned D.i.Re Association., concretizes the strategic CSR goals of the company, which is among the leaders in large-scale retail in Italy. In fact, in 2020 Lidl joined the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles and has long been committed to “taking care” of its employees-who make up more than 60 percent of the company’s population. Intrigued by the initiative, we decided to take the November 25 anniversary to ask Alessia Bonifazi, Head of Communications and CSR at Lidl Italy, to tell us more.

Q: There is a lot of talk about issues such as gender equality and violence against women: especially in recent years, including online, efforts are being made to raise awareness and create critical sense on the topic, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard. Nowadays, how do you see the position of women in the working world in Italy? In what ways can it be improved?

R: As a socially responsible company, we are keenly aware of the impact of our actions, so diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity are foundational values that we ensure in all our HR management policies: from selection and recruiting processes, training and development, to internal growth processes. Lidl Italy has more than 21,000 employees, and of this large team more than 60 percent are women. We do, in fact, put people at the center by valuing women’s employment, and to do so, it is critically important to create a work environment that promotes respect and acceptance as an integral part of daily interaction and views diversity, including gender diversity, as an opportunity. This includes creating equal and fair conditions for all and, for example, the continued promotion of gender equality. In order to ensure equitable access to career paths, Lidl has developed structured processes and initiatives over the years, such as periodic performance appraisals and parenting support. These processes are aimed at ensuring, particularly for mothers, managerial career paths that can reconcile work time and family care. Our goal is to continue to support and enhance the role of women in the world of work.

Q: The concept of job empowerment and economic independence in relation to violence against women is very interesting: how does Lidl make its daily contribution to combating discrimination, inequality, and gender-based violence?

R: In line with our commitment to gender equality and adherence to the UN Women Empowerment Principles, we have decided to take the field and make our concrete contribution to the fight against violence against women through the project called Dire Woman. A social inclusion initiative dedicated to women victims of domestic violence in collaboration with D.i.RE (Women in Networks Against Violence), aimed at employment inclusion. In fact, one factor common to most of the women assisted by anti-violence centers is the difficulty in re-entering the labor market and the resulting lack of economic independence. And it is precisely here that we wanted to make a difference, offering them a path that includes the opportunity for employment, which can be a definitive way out of violent situations and a new perspective on life and hope.

In detail, the project was structured in three phases: raising awareness among Lidl Italy’s management and employees, a subsequent professionalizing training course dedicated to women victims of violence and, finally, the opportunity for some of them to join our team. Our company first worked to foster an internal awareness of the issue. In fact, we have made available on internal institutional communication channels popularizing video pills made by the D.i.Re. Association. to enable understanding, knowledge and recognition of the phenomenon of violence against women and organized awareness meetings dedicated to all corporate management. On the assisted side, on the other hand, the women who joined the program were able to enjoy dedicated training, participating in professionalizing courses to thus acquire soft skills useful for empowerment in the work environment. At the end of the course, for some of them, there will be the possibility of obtaining employment in the Company.

Q: What concrete results and unexpected implications has the project produced? Do you anticipate that it will be replicated in this or future years?

R: The first phase was received with great interest by all Lidl employees who participated in the training and awareness session delivered by the experienced workers of the D.i.Re Association. This is a virtuous path that has allowed us to raise greater awareness of an issue that is now widespread and deep-rooted, but at the same time still greatly underestimated. In addition, on the occasion of November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, all 21,000-plus will wear the white ribbon, a small but important gesture that testifies to our commitment and stance.

To date, we have reached the end of the second phase of the project with the conclusion of professionalizing courses aimed at women assisted by D.i.Re throughout the country. Specifically, they were offered more cross-cutting lessons, such as those on Growth Mindset or Public Speaking, and some more technical ones, such as those on CV writing or creating a LinkedIn profile. Useful tools in order to ensure economic independence, a basic requirement for the realization of a new future, free from violence. Finally, selection processes are underway for possible employment in our company, a path that, for those who are successful, will be accompanied by the support of a D.i.Re mentor for successful reintegration into the working world.