Interview of Sophie Pouget – Ending violence against women

9 January 2023

Sophie Pouget is the Executive Director of the RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation, with the objective of developing the Foundation's fundraising and advocacy activities. Since 2021, Sophie Pouget has also been an assessor judge at the National Asylum Court, appointed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Previously, she coordinated the advocacy and partnership activities of the Generation Equality Forum for UN Women France. Until 2017, she worked at the World Bank Group in Washington DC, where she coordinated projects dedicated to poverty reduction and economic development. A former member of the Paris Bar, Sophie Pouget is a graduate of the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University, USA). She received the Henri Leclerc Prize for Human Rights from the Paris Bar in 2018, recognizing her advocacy work in defense of fundamental rights in the North of France.

She tells us more about one of the priority of the Foundation: to prevent violence against women and girls...



Sophie Pouget, you are the Executive Director of the RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation.. What are the foundation’s emblematic actions and supports?

The RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation works for the empowerment of women and girls. Created in 2006 by Danièle Kapel-Marcovici, President and CEO of the RAJA Group, the Foundation supports non-ptofit projects in France and throughout the world. Its actions are organized around 4 axes: preventing violence against women and girls, education and leadership, professional integration and economic rights for women, and women’s actions for the environment. This has given us the opportunity to accompany committed actors. For example,  the Maison des Femmes de Saint Denis, which offers comprehensive care to women victims of violence, Rêv’Elles, which is dedicated to helping young girls and strengthening their leadership, the Centre Primo Lévi, which helps migrant women victims of violence, or, in a completely different field, the Chemin des Fleurs, which offers women in very precarious situations a chance to train in horticulture…

You have been involved for several years in the defense of women’s rights, particularly within UN Women. What is the capacity of a foundation to influence and act on these issues of gender equality?

We act primarily by co-financing non-profit projects. Since 2006, we have been able to support more than 600 projects for the direct benefit of more than 150,000 women in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, for a total budget of more than 13 million euros. This is important because the issue of funding is one of the main demands of feminist associations. These associations have real expertise in gender equality, but they lack resources and are underfunded. Too few sponsors make gender equality a priority. We are one of the forty or so foundations sheltered by the Fondation de France that are dedicated to this cause. Out of more than 900 foundations, this is not enough!

We also act through advocacy, particularly in the prevention of violence against women and girls. We also work to promote women’s action for  the environment. In this respect, the Foundation is part of several coalitions. It joined the French Coalition of Foundations for the Climate, launched in November 2020 by the French Centre for Funds and Foundations, which brings together 141 signatories committed to the fight against climate change. It is also a member of the Action Coalition on Feminist Action for Climate Justice set up as part of the 2021 Generation Equality Forum under the aegis of UN Women. All these commitments allow us to work alongside different types of actors committed to women. Thanks to the discussions we have with grassroots organizations we fund in France and around the world, we can mobilize, inform and raise the awareness of other types of actors, within French and European philanthropy or public institutions such as the Ministry in charge of equality between women and men, the regions, etc…

On November 25 [International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women], the University of Earth will take place at the UNESCO headquarters. You will be taking part in a round table discussion on the theme “Ending violence against women”. What solutions can be envisaged, particularly in France?

Harassment, sexual assault, female genital mutilation… Violence against women and girls takes many different forms. To determine the costs of this violence and assess how best to combat it, it is necessary to have precise knowledge of the extent and nature of the incidents. Encouraging the sharing of expertise and the exchange of experiences is a major lever for improving the effectiveness of actions on the ground and contributing to the scaling up of lessons learned.

The round table we are organizing is intended to encourage this type of exchange, with the participation of associations which are on the front line in supporting women and which carry out genuine public service missions. For example, 3919 – the national reference number for women victims of violence – is the result of an agreement between the Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes and the State.

The experts we have brought together to discuss this issue will be able to testifythat the care of women victims of violence must be comprehensive: listening, psychological follow-up, housing, health, employment, and legal issues. All these aspects must be considered to enable women to rebuild their lives effectively and sustainably. The training of medical and social actors is fundamental to react appropriately and to accompany these women from care to reintegration. The training and specialization of judges is also important, as is that of the police. Finally, we must not forget the prevention actions that are essential: the education of young girls and boys is a solution to transform mentalities and behaviors.

Other countries are also sources of inspiration. In Spain, since 2004, the law against gender violence provides for the creation of courts specialized in gender-based violences as well as legal aid allowing victims to change their identity and benefit from greater protection from their aggressor. In Germany, since 2016, the notion of consent is limited to the identifiable expression of the person’s will, i.e. what is not a ‘yes’ is a ‘no’. Why not use this as a model?

According to the feminist collective #NousToutes, each year the number of feminicides increases: 102 in 2020; 113 in 2021; 98 since the beginning of 2022 (i.e. one death every two days). Despite the mobilization of numerous associations and the dissemination of information by the majority of the media, how do you explain this persistence and dramatic increase in feminicides in our country?

There is a certain failure of public policy measures. Some laws promote gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence but encounter difficulties in application: for example, since 2018, each high school must have an Equality Referent to inform and fight against violence against women. However, 2 out of 3 high schools do not have one. Yet it is at school that gender stereotypes and the violence that can sometimes accompany them can be blocked. Education plays a major role in the fight against gender violence.

The figures on sexual violence affecting young people are alarming: 1 in 4 young people say they have already had non-consensual sex. A quarter of 18-24 year old believe that a woman takes pleasure in being forced to have sex. 1 in 5 young women is a victim of pornodisclosure. Nevertheless, in practice, few measures are put in place: only 3 sex education classes are given to pupils throughout their schooling out of the 21 sessions provided for by the Aubry Law. It is based on these figures that the High Council for Equality between Women and Men has called for an emergency plan for equality in schools for the start of the 2022, encouraging the Ministry of Education to make sexuality awareness in schools a priority.

The subject of violence against women is too often perceived as an isolated issue: it is necessary to show that it is a cross-cutting issue that does not only affect the privacy of the home. It is a subject that concerns society, and above all it concerns women as much as men, in equal measure.

Stay tuned

I subscribe to the newsletter