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Founder and Past President, The Body Shop Canada

By: Alison Palkhivala

Philanthropist, activist and entrepreneur Margot Franssen is best known for being founder of The Body Shop Canada, where she is also its past-president. During her time with the company, she helped develop its national public awareness and fundraising campaign, “Stop the Violence Against Women.” Together with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, this campaign helped raise more than $1 million for violence prevention and recovery programs. The Body Shop also raised money so that Outward Bound could provide wilderness training to abused women in order to help them get in touch with their own innate courage and promote their emotional and physical recovery.

Since selling The Body Shop in 2004, Franssen has become involved with Women Moving Millions, where she is currently co-chair. Women Moving Millions is a worldwide philanthropic effort to inspire gifts of a million dollars or more to organizations and initiatives that advance and empower women and girls. She is also dedicating her time to her former collaborator, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Canada’s only national foundation aimed at helping women and girls reach their full economic and social potential. The Foundation raises money to research, fund, and share the best approaches for ending violence against women, lifting women out of poverty, and building strong, resilient girls. Since 1993 Franssen has served on the board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and is co-chair of their Endowment Campaign.

Before trekking off alone to England to convince Anita Roddick, original founder of The Body Shop, that she was the person to make the company a success in Canada, Franssen had long been involved in women’s and human rights issues. In 1995, she attended the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women. There, she presented the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights with a petition containing more than a million signatures that called for all nations to recognize that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” Franssen’s passion for women’s rights began when she learnt that 51% of women in Canada have experienced violence.

Franssen has always been determined to succeed despite the disadvantages afforded her gender, and that success has been recognized. In 1991 she was appointed to the York University Secretariat Board of Governors and was made an Honorary Governor in 2003. Franssen has also served on the Advisory Committee for the Dalai Lama’s Visit to Canada as well as held additional board positions with the World Wildlife Fund, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Toronto Family Service Association, Outward Bound, the York University Foundation, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the York University Foundation, Women’s College Hospital and the Women’s Funding Network. She has served on the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, and on the International Human Rights Jury.

Franssen has received over 50 awards for her achievements. For her involvement with the “Stop The Violence Against Women” campaign, she was awarded a United Nations Grand Award. In 2002, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, where she received the Queen Jubilee Award. She also received the Outstanding Achievement in the Advancement of Women Award from UNIFEM in 2004.

Franssen obtained an undergraduate degree from York University in 1970 and is a fellow of Ryerson Polytechnic University. She has also received honorary degrees from the University of Windsor and Mount Saint Vincent University.