Fighting against sexism and violence, Réunion, France

Alizée, can you tell us when and how the NousToutes974 collective was born?

The Noustoutes974 collective was born following the creation of the national collective, the same year, in 2018. We only took it over in 2021, following the previous referents, because there wasn’t much activity, we wanted to get things moving. We took it up again last year and we immediately started with the march on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which was also November 27 last year, in 2021. Before that I was already involved as an activist, I had taken part in the baguette bag operation: on the baguette bags we had the “violentometers” and useful phone numbers that we distributed in the bakeries; I covered all of Petite Île and Sud Sauvage (Southern part of the Island). The bakeries were delighted with the action because in the end it got people talking, it was a “good” action and they liked doing it. The action was created in mainland France, and we took it over here: we had the bags delivered from mainland France. We did it a bit later because the transport from France to Reunion took a long time.

What is your role in the collective?

I’m the co-referent, there are two of us at NousToutes974. I’m usually the one who is seen because I make most of the speeches, I’m put forward as I’m not particularly afraid of speaking in public and I’m not embarrassed to have my face in the press and in the media.

And why this collective? To respond to what need, to what observation?

The need that we all have seen and that we still see in our respective activities is that domestic violence in Reunion is immense and incest is extremely present. There is a lot of work to be done on this. I work at the Mission Locale Sud (French public job centre for young people from 16 to 25), in the whole southern basin of the island. And I see it: young women have many difficulties compared to young men. There is a real need.

How do you spot these difficulties?

It’s difficult to spot because these are people who will try to hide them as best as they can. These are people who are not very mobile, or have no mobility at all, because they either don’t have a driving licence or the money for a car, or they live in the heights of the island and therefore have no work. So they can’t get out on their own, they’ll stay where they are and this vicious circle will continue indefinitely.

You can also see this if you talk to the person. You just have to explain that you are a trustworthy person, to show that you believe the person, because it’s all very well to let a person talk but if you don’t believe them it’s useless, and then to be attentive, to listen with kindness and from there things can be released… or not… it can take months and months… it can be by watching a programme on TV, by looking at our exhibition “Our Words on our Bodies” or 3 or 4 months later it will come back… “Wow, that’s what I’m actually experiencing”. It’s not necessarily visible.

Tell us about your actions, your highlights are in November and March I think?

Yes, we have a lot of events, on 15, 16 and 17/11 we have the “Alon koz santé” forum, we’re going to talk about psychological, sexual and physical health etc. to young people aged 12 to 26. It’s organised by the Mission Locale Sud, for schoolchildren, students and other unemployed people. We are participating as a collective exhibitor and I will also take part in the debate on violence against women live on AKS.RE.

Then we have the travelling exhibition which has its last date at the end of November at the media library of Saint Joseph. It started on March 8 and ends on November 26. We will try to do it again next year, but for much longer periods: instead of two weeks, we will be doing it for one or two months.

What does this travelling exhibition look like?

About a dozen photographs in A4-A3 format, which I thought up, inspired in part by FEMEN, and which we created in 2021 and had printed in 2022. We have a big roll-up that explains the exhibition when we are not there. We often hold sharing evenings in each place where we go to explain things, to share with the public and to get people’s feedback. Generally it goes down well, the children are very receptive, and many adults too, it’s incredible, I love doing that.

On November 19 there is an Aperitif Queer, which is organised every month by a friend, Elia, in which we will try to get involved: all queer people can come without being afraid. Because we don’t have a place like that in Reunion Island. LGBTQIA+ people suffer from violence like women and children; these are the three categories most affected by violence (knowing that there are other groups of people more affected within these groups, for example racialised women are more affected than white women). And for queer people it is even worse because they have to be invisible to be safe.

On November 23 we are invited to a time of exchange with other associations on an event called “Kozé féministe” in St Paul, created by the collective La houlle.

Finally on November 27, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with in the morning a village of associations and crafts that will be great, and from 1pm the march that will leave from the Jardin de l’Etat towards the Barachois in St Denis. Update: the village has been cancelled by the department 10 days before the event although we had requested it in June. It will be redone for March we hope.

Then on 8 March?

Yes, for the International Women’s Rights Day. I’m going to get involved in my town, by organising, fingers crossed, a day for sisterhood. And certainly the exhibition will be back in operation at that time, as well as many other initiatives that will emerge between now and then.

Between November and March, how does the collective live?

This year the exhibition took us a lot of time because it moved every two weeks… we had to change places, with moments of sharing, unhooking, hanging… it was an intense work! And we are also very much on social networks: FB, Instagram, Twitter. We share a lot of posts, daily: quotes, posts that are a bit more informative, awareness. We’re on Instagram a lot. We have to reach the youngest people. We also make (legal) collages with the group Colleuses féministe 974

What challenges, what obstacles do you encounter with this collective?

We encounter many.

For example, for the march against sexist and sexual violence last year, less than a week before the big day, they changed our itinerary. And the day before, they changed our march schedule. So we lost a lot of visibility even though we had already been marching for a month. And this year we’ve been on the march for several months, since June I think, on November 9 we still didn’t have any answer from the local authorities. Although they have had our papers for a very long time, we try to contact them in different ways but it’s true that it’s complicated every time. It’s difficult to push the doors open. We’re patient, tenacious, we try several times.

And our main problem is that we don’t have any money: as a collective we are not subsidised because we are not an association, and for us, the only way to get money is either to take it from our own funds or to ask for donations, to make collections etc. so that’s what we do for the march but it’s very complicated to get money. We try to solve this problem by organising exhibitions where we put a small fund, and on our stand we will have works of art by activists to sell to the public… we are taking part in a solidarity flea market on November 13 where we will be selling donations from activists for the collective.

Moreover, we don’t have enough activists, or activists who aren’t active enough, because we all have jobs on the side, family lives, etc., so it’s complicated to federate and make them active.

What are the results? What impact?

We can see it on our social networks: we started from 0 in 2021, and we already have 1700 subscribers. For a collective that has no money, this is huge. People are becoming more and more aware. And then people come to see us when they need an “expert’s word”, people come to ask us questions, I’ve been seen several times as a volunteer. Who comes to see you? Young people, people I don’t know, or other activists who don’t have the answers, or the press too. We can see that the work is starting to progress, we are starting to have visibility. We can also see it on the exhibition: the gross phobic and sexist tags on three of our photos show that it works: it bothers people, so it works.

We can see that there is still a lot of work to be done, but you can’t stop it. « Nout zaksion lé inportan pou lé fanm, pou tout domoun è nou sa continu » (« our actions are important for women, for all the people, and we will go on  »

Fighting against sexism and violence, Réunion, France