Well-known for her very feminine works, YZ has also been strongly involved with NGOs and non-for-profits on a voluntary basis for many years. Earlier this year, and after discovering Empow'her's work in Abidjan on social networks, YZ decides to meet with the director and the lead teacher of the NGO's Ivorian office.
"I enjoyed the training and teaching materials they offer. They address many themes related to female entrepreneurship in a very concrete way. Faced with an audience that cannot easily get about due to a lack of resources, that has no time, and that is sometimes illiterate, it is not easy to convince young girls to join a training program, especially in an environment where educating women is not seen as a priority.
From Senegal to Abidjan
Already familiar with Senegal, YZ moved to Ivory Coast a year ago. As she was settling down, she started looking for a contextual project and took some time to feel the city, observe how it worked, learned its history, the construction of its neighborhoods, tried to understand the habitat, ... Although she appreciated the new surrounding substrates, such as wood and recovery materials, her goal was to find an emotion.
"I realized that in Abidjan, there are many women selling on the street whereas in Senegal, they're all men".
Abidjan is very different from all African capitals. The family structure is broken down even into the habitat where women, alone with children, rent rooms in buildings with large common courtyards, where everyone lives and evolves. If a man keeps his income, every female receipt is brought back to the family.
"When you're driving and you buy from women who sell water on the sidewalk, the cabin is a barrier between your world and the girls"
"I wanted to make people understand that we can stop, look at them, and give them a sense of visibility, their humanity back. "
For several months, YZ meets women in the streets, in the markets and asks them for their permission to take pictures, without them really understanding the process. In return, she offers a compensation and they exchange their numbers, for YZ to be able to recontact them shall she uses their image. She glues the portraits in the street, after adding ornaments, to give them a role, some space, in this city with major economic differences.
"The topic of women has imposed itself in recent years. It resonates with me, my identity, who I am and my convictions."
"I'm trying to create a universe with different women who have marked Africa. With "street vendors", I hope to offer a global return on a process that will have a purpose on all girls here, in a broad sense."
YZ is willing to add a solidarity component to her project. Already aware of the work of the Childen of Africa association, which promotes education of young girls, she eventually turns to Empow'her who is trying to recruit new audiences to explain the importance of female entrepreneurship. Their actions are concrete: with practical training in closeby venues, Empow'her targets women aged 25 to 30 who sell products on the street to help them settle, find a fixed place, have their own "spot", to establish a business.
The situation is complex and Empow'her needs help, especially after this summer's floods, but mentalities are modern. That's why YZ decides to first support them in the opening their training center and she now hopes to raise funds in the future to perpetuate their work. Because as she remembers every woman she met, like Mai, 24, a woman selling mangoes who, baby on her back, carries a load of 20 kilos; she also remembers their common denominator. This young mother, like all others, struggles daily to educate her children, despite the expense and complexity of access that this represents.
"In 10 years, this generation will be completely different as their daughters will go to school."