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Economy: Avon helps lift African women out of poverty

         Date: 2012-07-04

           Tag: African, African women

Summary: Becoming an Avon cosmetics Sales Representative is helping some poor South African women escape poverty as well as inspiring many with self-confidence and hope.

Becoming an Avon cosmetics Sales Representative is helping some poor South African women escape poverty as well as inspiring many with self-confidence and hope.

South Africa’s growing band of 'Avon Ladies' are benefiting from economic empowerment, a sustainable income, raised social status and greater personal confidence, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The research team conducted two large surveys - one with 300 black Avon Representatives working in South Africa and one with 77 of their consumers - as well as interviews and focus groups with Avon management, Sales Representatives and consumers. 

They also attended meetings and training sessions and accompanied Representatives on delivery rounds.

The research found that, on average, the Avon Representatives earned enough to cover their typical household expenditures for food and non-alcoholic beverages, clothing and shoes, as well as healthcare.

"Although the amount earned is very small, particularly from a UK point of view, this income, by itself, would put Avon Representatives in the top half of black females in their community and bring them in line with what a black man earns," points out researcher Professor Linda Scott of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

The study also shows that women who relied on Avon for their primary income (and had worked as Avon Representative for 16 months or more) had earnings which placed them in the top 10 per cent of self-employed black women in South Africa. 

Women who had been working with Avon seven months or less and for whom Avon was their primary source of income earned considerably less (approximately 560ZAR (43 GBP) per month compared with the 1,400ZAR (108 GBP) per month earned by the longer term Representatives.

Nearly three-quarters of the Avon Representatives surveyed stated that Avon had given them financial autonomy. The researchers found that 92 per cent had their own bank account, as compared to only 38 per cent of black South African women having any bank account.

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