Head of IKEA’s department store: True equality starts right at home

Head of IKEA
Head of IKEA

The subject of domestic violence has until recently been heavily taboo. Several media outlets or companies are already starting to raise the issue. One of them is IKEA’s department store. We reached out to the director, Lucia Kleckova, who told us in the interview:

  • why is it that their firm is dealing with this particular issue, 
  • what is domestic violence, 
  • how to educate society on this issue, 
  • how the working environment can affect the status of women, 
  • how can a woman who is exposed to some form of violence can defend herself?

A conference on domestic violence was held recently. IKEA was one of the main partners. Why has IKEA started to address this issue? 

The answer is simple – because our vision is to create a better daily life for as many people as possible, and this, of course, is also linked to creating a safe home. We believe that home should be a safe place for everyone, which unfortunately is not always the case. 

That is why we have decided to actively help women experiencing violence and to motivate society to discuss together, as well as to find ways to prevent violence against women in partnership. Statistics show that the issue of domestic violence is also increasingly relevant in the context of the current situation of the spread of COVID-19.

According to statistics, up to 70% of women have experienced domestic violence. What does this term cover? 

We know of many forms of domestic violence. Many people think of domestic violence, especially women or men who come in physical contact with the aggressor and then hide their bruises under sweaters or sunglasses. However, there is also an invisible form of domestic violence that is just as dangerous. Physical violence is also associated with mental or social violence. The victims are repeatedly blackmailed and psychologically manipulated, which leaves no marks on the skin, but it does leave significant marks on the soul.

Head of IKEA

Head of IKEA in Slovakia

How much more has the pandemic exacerbated this problem? Do you have any statistics available? 

The way this problem is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to see it since the first wave. At the time, the national hotline for women experiencing domestic violence reported twice as many women being called on the hotline for the first time. Households, where we currently spend more time than ever before, are stirring up another wave of violence. 

What are the main objectives of the Safe Home campaign?

The objective of the two and a half year Safe Homes project is to contribute to improving living conditions in the home for each of us. We believe that society and the business community should take a proactive interest in issues that affect us all. In this context, we have made specific commitments through which we want to contribute to finding solutions to prevent violence and to help the women who experience it. 

One of the campaign plans is to earmark EUR 70 000.To which organizations will this money go? 

The money will go to non-profit organizations that help victims of domestic violence to provide them with the necessary help and accommodation.

You are declaring equality of opportunity in IKEA. How do you manage that? 

We in IKEA believe that everyone has the right to fair treatment and equal opportunities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That is why we celebrate diversity at work and try to create a workplace where there is an atmosphere of inclusion. Our aim is to achieve true gender equality. This means ensuring equal opportunities for both women and men and achieving a 50 / 50 ratio at all levels of governance. Equality is simply a win-win situation. In order to achieve a 50 / 50 male / female ratio, we are aiming for more women to work in positions that are mostly held by men and vice versa.

How do you try to raise awareness and educate society about this problem? 

In January, we did a survey on how the Slovaks perceive gender equality in society and how it manifests itself directly in households. The results were subsequently published through the Fair Homes campaign. We have called on people to exchange roles at home so that they can better understand their partners and build a happier home together.

True equality starts at home, and the time has come to break many stereotypes. We are also trying to point out that the perception of gender equality in society has a huge impact on the issue of domestic violence. Violence against women is the most serious impact of inequality. The EU directive makes it clear that women are particularly vulnerable to victims, as they experience violence precisely because they are women. We are fully aware that in order to achieve full equality for women in society, we must first pay attention to this most serious impact of inequality.

What other companies or organizations have joined your initiative? 

Our aim is to bring together all those who care about the subject, have something to offer and are willing to share their experience and resources to help women who experience violence. The round table with the US Trade Commission, which was attended by representatives of the private, public and non-profit sectors, was intended, on the one hand, to show companies that the issue of violence against women is important and that there are specific areas in which the private sector can help.

We also wanted to send a signal to the public sector that companies are actively interested in the issue, that they see it as important and that they are ready to work with the state on specific areas to combat violence against women. We trust that, in addition to the nonprofit sector, other companies will join us and together we will contribute to improving the situation of women in Slovakia. 

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How do you perceive President Zuzana Chaputova’s involvement in this issue? 

We very much appreciate the President‘s involvement and support, and we see this as an important signal that violence against women is an issue of concern to society as a whole and one that is also being addressed by the highest authorities.

Try giving three pieces of advice to women on how to act when they feel threatened. 

Each case of domestic violence is different, so women should certainly find out more about their options as a first step and contact, for example, Fenestra at 0911 440 808 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or the non-stop National Line for Violence against Women at 0800 212 212. If a woman is at risk of life or health, contact the police immediately at 158.

It is important to speak up about the problems, even if it is extremely difficult. Any woman who chooses to fight domestic violence is also an inspiration to other women that the situation they are currently in may not be their lifelong story. I truly believe and hope that the situation with regard to domestic violence will also begin to improve thanks to our campaign in Slovakia. Not only we, but the whole of society, have a long and difficult road ahead of us, but we are not going to give up. We are for a safe home that deserves every single human being.

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