At LETO, we don’t just “problem solve” – we want to help companies make an impact. This led to us developing standtall.org, a new initiative pioneered by Unilever that provides support to women who suffered from domestic violence – the platform we created helps to empower women and most importantly helps to prevent home abuse. It has been initially launched in India, which is sadly one of the countries with the highest rate of domestic violence.
Some years ago, Esther Marshall, a graduate trainee at Unilever, was abused by a violent boyfriend. After they separated, she wrote down her feelings in a private diary. This helped her understand what she was most passionate about – safety and equality for women and girls. She then realised that – as therapeutic as this process was for her – she also wanted to help other women who had gone through a similar experience. StandTall was born.
Esther’s vision was twofold. Firstly, standtall.org would be an anonymous platform for victims of abuse to share their experiences, or those who have witnessed loved ones being abused. Secondly, it would be a portal, connecting women with charities and NGOs in their area that would offer them much-needed protection and advice.
As noble as this purpose was, Esther was faced with a simple reality: it would take a huge amount of work to get it off the ground. When she was on the brink of resigning from her job, to devote herself to her vision, a colleague suggested she speak to the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman. She thought she might get ten minutes, but ended up speaking with him for over an hour. ‘We’ll back it,’ he said. Esther been recommended LETO, so she contacted us, briefed, and we set to work.
There were three challenges.
From the start, we knew the timelines would be strict. We began work on the 6th October and Esther was scheduled to introduce the site at the prestigious One Young World conference, in Bangkok, on the 18th November: it couldn’t be late.
Thirdly, we had to empathise: an abused woman would be logging her thoughts and experiences in an obvious state of distress. She might be in hiding or in constant fear of attack. Because of this we had to develop a user experience that was welcoming, non-judgmental, and fully understanding of the horror of domestic violence. Above all, it had to stress that all testimonials would be anonymous.
Tailoring the site to mobile first was a priority. Our designers started to block it out in Sketch, while at the same time exploring how the site might be displayed on a desktop: it was very likely that the charities/NGOs who wanted to be a part of the project would use it in their offices, rather than on the move.
We also guided Esther through the project, working closely with her to realise her dream. This was however our typical process: the client will often arrive with a rough idea of what they want. We then gently question them, finding out exactly what they need, before formulating a step-by-step plan.
As with any startup – this project has been built from scratch; so within the given timeline we created its branding and the designs, developed and launched the platform.
The site www.standtall.org was ready a week before the event and we tested it on various devices (feature phones, smartphones, desktop, etc.) to ensure we were ready for the 18th November. It fulfilled Unilever’s corporate social responsibility remit; but most importantly it answered Esther’s dual goals of a forum to document abuse, share victim stories and tips, and a platform to discover and contact relevant NGOs/charities. Esther successfully introduced the project at the One Young World conference and the site was publically launched on 18th November 2015.
StandTall links into Unilever’s corporate social responsibility programmes. These are focussed at helping to improve women’s safety and standard of living: standtall.org was only one of them. There is a massive need for this work, given the startling inequality between genders: globally, women do 66% of the work, but earn only 10% of the income. Shockingly, they own only 1% of the world’s property. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for programmes that promote women’s rights and social justice.
It’s early days, but StandTall is nothing if not ambitious: their aim is to raise £250,000 to ‘build centres that provide holistic restorative care to victims of abuse, to ensure they achieve their full potential.’ Given the fierce determination of their founder, and the support of Unilever, they can expect every success.