It was at the end of World War II that the Claire Amitié association was founded to help girls rebuild and prepare for the future. The idea was to create a place to welcome them as a family.
Claire Amitié’s action began in France, but quickly spread abroad, opening 12 centres. Today, the association is present in France and in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cambodia and Brazil.
Among the beneficiaries of a centre in Senegal is Jeanne Cisse. At the age of 14, for family reasons, Jeanne had to leave school.
She wanted to learn a job to work and help her family financially. She discovered Claire Amitié and decided to attend their training courses.
Twenty-four years later, Jeanne Cisse is now in charge of the Bouaké centre in Côte d’Ivoire after working in the centres in Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
The first thing they expect from us is training to become financially self-sufficient. But they also need a human formation that is the foundation of all their development.
Jeanne Cisse, head of the Claire Amitié centre in Bouaké (Ivory Coast)
Human and professional training
As with Jeanne, the girls who knock on the centre's door are between the ages of 14 and 24 and have been forced to leave school, while some have never set foot in a school.
In Bouaké, the girls arrive at 7.30 am. Five minutes later, the siren sounds, and the girls line up so that the staff can welcome them “shaking each one of their hands,” Jeanne tells us. A detail that is important as it makes it allows staff to quickly identify any possible distress: "we sense right away if everything is going well at home… through her facial expressions and the way she greets us, we can sense it if she is not happy… and that allows us to meet her during the day to talk about it."
Then each girl goes to her class where activities begin. In Bouaké, the young women have a choice between three learning paths: hairdressing, baking or sewing.
Beyond this professional training, French and literacy courses are provided according to each girl’s level, as well as "human training", a concept at the heart of the support provided by Claire Amitié from the very start. Indeed, life in the centre is modelled on family life, conveying a sense of responsibility, sharing, but also self-reliance and self-confidence. In short, offering them a family “that they have sometimes never had or that they have lost”, says a volunteer from the association.
The purpose of the association can thus be summarised by the acronym used to refer to its beneficiaries, become FREE: Femmes Responsables Épanouies et Entrepreneures or successful and responsible women entrepreneurs
Copyright : Anne-Laure Simon
2019: renovating the centre
In 2019, the Bouaké centre celebrated its 53rd birthday. However, the building had suffered greatly from the severe crisis that affected the country between 2003 and 2007.
It had become dilapidated and unfit to properly host its growing number of beneficiaries.
The city, which is 350 km from Abidjan, was “hard hit by the crisis and never got back on its feet”, explains Alain-Camille Jan, who is in charge of fund-raising for the association.
"All the industries have disappeared", he continues. “A lot of sufficiently qualified people have also gone. The population's average level of education is very low… as is its purchasing power. It is very worrying.”
To help young women, Claire Amitié is constantly searching for funds as even though the families are asked to pay a fee for the training it is a symbolic contribution and does not cover the organisation's operating costs, much less its development projects.
So, Alain-Camille knocked on the doors of several companies in Abidjan in the hope of raising the funds needed to renovate the Bouaké centre.
The Societe Generale teams in Abidjan committed to the renovation project and explained that they wanted to present the project at the first edition of the Pan-African Charity Awards Challenge. This initiative invites the Societe Generale group’s African entities to present the project of a local association to the Foundation’s team.
This is an important initiative for the Foundation, part of its Africa Programme. The objective is twofold: to strengthen the local network of partners on the continent and to boost philanthropy and solidarity within the subsidiaries.
Claire Amitié was one of three associations selected and rewarded by a grant in 2019. Find the 2020 winners on our website.
The renovation and extension project was therefore supported not only by the Foundation but also by our subsidiary in Côte d’Ivoire. The work is over and “now the centre is the pride of the city of Bouaké”, Jeanne Cisse exclaims with a big smile.
2020, long-term support
But the story between Claire Amitié and Societe Generale does not end there. Happy with the results of the first year of partnership and having achieved the objectives set, the Foundation renewed its partnership in June 2020 to support the centre’s day-to-day life and development. Claire Amitié will thus be able to welcome more girls and open up new opportunities for them.
They will be offered IT lessons to give them skills that are increasingly sought-after in the world of work.
For his part, Alain-Camille talks about the desire to also turn towards the fields of in-home services and energy.
We realise that the jobs we prepare the girls for are traditional for the most part… but we would like to guide them towards the jobs of tomorrow. … while continuing to highlight the human formation that is the DNA of Claire Amitié.
Alain-Camille Jan, fund-raising officer for Claire Amitié