Femmes en avenir
Since its creation, the French association “Femmes en avenir” (Women with a Future) and the project leads by Alain Ducasse and supported by the Societe Generale Foundation for Solidarity in June 2013, is increasing its visibility thought an article published in British daily newspaper The Guardian.
The association’s scheme targets unemployed and socially-disadvantaged women, providing them with training for which they are paid the minimum wage for a 35-hour week. The training involves studying at a training centre and working in prestigious Paris restaurants. The scheme selects candidates who are unable to access mainstream training due to their age or status. Their social situation is not considered an impediment to following the programme but simply regarded as information to be taken into account. The candidates obtain a diploma in professional cooking in one academic year (instead of two in the mainstream system), and the association supports them until they find a job in one of the partner companies.
The chef Alain Ducasse, who was inspired by Bill Clinton’s 2005 Global Initiative to come up with the scheme, promised each woman a job in one of his 15 Paris restaurants if they obtained their diploma.
“It’s not charity and it’s not a cheque”, he says. “It’s giving women in very difficult situations the key to improving their lives. It’s not an open door; it’s one that is ajar and we are saying, ‘come in – perhaps we can help you’. The message is: together we can do it.”
Naima Benazzouz, one of its beneficiaries, a Moroccan-born mother of three living in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles has chosen to share her story. She was among the very first group of 15 beneficiaries selected in 2011, when the initiative was launched. Around 100 people had applied to take part in the professional cooking course.
Once she had finished her course in haute cuisine and during a visit by François Fillon, the former French Prime Minister, Naima Benazzouz was offered a job in the kitchens at Matignon, the official residence of the Prime Minister. “François Fillon came to meet us and promised to take one of us on”, she explains. “In Sarcelles, life is hard, but you have to get on with it. Here, I am learning new things every day. My plan and my dream is to open my own restaurant.”