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Les Yeux Ouverts: taking action against the exclusion of women

Bretagne - Vannes
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods

Founded in 2006 by the sociologist, Zoulikha Rida, the association “Les Yeux Ouverts” (meaning eyes wide open) takes action to prevent women’s isolation and insecurity in the deprived neighbourhood of Ménimur, in Vannes, aiming to improve women’s social integration and access to employment.

05/19/2011

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“The association has two objectives,” explained Zoulikha Rida, who manages the association, ”first, to put an end to women’s isolation in Ménimur, and second, as a place where women looking for work can find information and guidance.” After working at the United Nations and going on assignment in Haiti, the sociologist and psychologist, Rida Zoulikha decided to come and live and work in this deprived neighbourhood. Here she became aware of the solitude and exclusion experienced by women, especially single mothers. “Of the 160 members of the association, over 100 are single mothers, and only three are not of French origin. Women from immigrant families are supported by the community. This is not the case for other women.”

The association is open every day. Six volunteers work in relay to listen, propose activities (yoga, swimming, walking, gardening, etc.) and provide support to jobseekers. “We wanted to create a place so that women would get out of the house, where they can meet other women and look out for one another. Some of them are really worn down by their lives. To get them into work, it’s essential to start taking action as far upstream as possible,” added Zoulikha Rida.

A clear vision of oneself and of life

In June 2011, the members of Les Yeux Ouverts brought out the first issue of the association’s newspaper. Assisted by a professional journalist, they got together every Monday for months to write about their lives. One woman wrote: “The main themes that run through these pages are friendship, listening and sharing. We are opening our eyes to gain a clear vision of ourselves and of life.”

This is an approach that has attracted the VINCI Foundation’s attention for the second time, following on from the support first provided in 2007 which enabled the association to buy a car. Since May 2011, the Foundation has supported the plan to relocate the association to larger and more suitable premises. “The association has been working in 14 square metres of space – not exactly the ideal place to support these women. It will move to a new space, measuring 80 square metres. I put myself forward to sponsor this initiative. As someone that builds housing estates, I feel it is important to think about the people that live in our buildings,” explained Pierre Guehenneux, Head of the Sogea-Brittany agency (VINCI Construction) in Vannes. “So far, I’ve found out what the association needs – computers and software, communication tools, as well as a kitchen and library ! This is the first time I’ve been involved in such a project, and it’s really enriching. I’ve already found out about another project that I’d like to sponsor after this one.”

Meanwhile, the association’s manager has started packing: “This is going to change our lives!” She’s already working on her next project – to open a social hammam. What a beautiful idea !

July 2011 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.