An “anti” humanitarian social project
Thanks to the first photo exhibition “Go de nuit. Les belles oubliées” shown at the “Maison des Métallos” in 2011, these young women’s status as victims was finally recognised, whereas in their own society they were held responsible for their fates because they sold their bodies to survive. Racked by shame, they had chosen to hide in the shadows of clandestine life. When their portraits were exhibited, they understood that they could act upon their own destiny: the exhibition raised 10 000€ which was used to fund a social project that we called the “Casa des Go”.
I pursued my work as an ethnologist, photographer and film-maker as part of my engagement in this project. A new window into their lives opened up for me.
Cours de théâtre psy à la Casa
When I came back to Abidjan having kept my promise, my first step was to try and find an NGO. But I encountered only setbacks and disillusionment. The local administration perceived the ghetto Go girls as a nuisance, who had no hope for societal rehabilitation and who would be a heavy burden not only for their workload but also for their results, measured in terms of quantities of people ‘saved’, medication administered, material provided, etc.
In the end, I ran the project myself, with 10 girls and the support of both the Amigo Doumé Foundation and a few individuals from outside. We rented a flat located next to a state Social Centre as I thought their support might also prove useful. However, the teachers had trouble accepting the Go’s outlandish behaviour and the activities were unsuccessful, with very un-educational timing – it is hard to teach punctuality, when one is an hour late oneself! After a while, the flat became the girls’ only referential framework. It closed after 7 months, during which its inhabitants had enjoyed a level of protection that had previously seemed unthinkable given their chequered pasts.
The ONUCI, through the Human Rights Commission, had unanimously approved this project and agreed to support its second phase, after the first three months of stabilisation I had initiate. The money arrived a year late and was taken by the neighbouring Social Centre, which had been involved at the beginning.