• 2 avril 2014
fr fr

A Human Rights advocate enters the French hall of fame

« Aux grands hommes, la Patrie reconnais­sante [To the great men, the gra­te­ful Nation] ». Upon the Saint Geneviève hill in Paris, the French hall of fame [hereaf­ter Panthéon]’s fron­tis­piece from the outset spe­ci­fies selec­tion cri­te­ria : it is easier for a man than for a woman to lie inside the Panthéon. For two hun­dred years that, with all pomp and cir­cum­stance, the French State has moved inside it tombs of seventy-five ser­vants of the great­ness of France, only two women cur­rently lie there : the chi­mist Marie Curie who won the Nobel price twice, and Sophie Berthelot, next to her hus­band the chi­mist Marcelin Berthelot.

The cur­rent French govern­ment was loo­king for a woman to make her ente­red the Panthéon, in order to at least slightly balance men and women parity inside the Panthéon. Were expec­ted Olympe de Gouges, a femi­nist who took part in the French Revolution, George Sand, a XIX-cen­tury-nove­list who took a male name, or Lucie Aubrac, a com­mu­nist active during the French Resistance. Eventually, two women have been chosen, who were more or less unex­pec­ted. Both of them belon­ged to the ring of Resistance called "Le Musée de l’Homme", during the Nazi Occupation in France. "Le Musée de l’Homme" was one of the first move­ments of the French Resistance, which was hidden behind a Literary Society « Les amis d’Alain-Fournier [a French author dead during the First World War] ».

One of these two women is Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, niece of the General de Gaulle. It is allo­wed to be deligh­ted with the choice of such a rich, pro­fond, lumi­nous cha­rac­ter to embody the French spirit in the Panthéon ; a chal­len­ging and open-minded woman who had spread uni­ver­sal values of share and self-sacri­fice ; a woman whose devo­tion was admi­red by all.

Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz bra­vely took part in the French Resistance during the four years of Nazi Occupation, mul­ti­plying infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence ser­vi­ces. Arrested by Pierre Bony, from the French Gestapo, she was depor­ted to the Ravensbrück concen­tra­tion camp in February, 1944. She had to let fifty years past before expres­sing with words what she had endu­red there, by wri­ting La tra­ver­sée de la nuit [Crossing the night], a deeply moving and reser­ved account of her life in concen­tra­tion camp, stres­sing espe­cially the soli­da­rity bet­ween women out.

In 1958, she worked in the office of French minis­ter André Malraux when she met a catho­lic priest, Joseph Wresinski, then cha­plain of Noisy-le-Grand slum. She is deeply moved by inha­bi­tants of this slum’s extreme poverty and deci­ded to spent her life figh­ting for Human Rights and against injus­tice. She helped Father Joseph Wresinski to create the move­ment ATD Fourth World. The International Movement ATD Fourth World is a non-govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion with no reli­gious or poli­ti­cal affi­lia­tion which enga­ges with indi­vi­duals and ins­ti­tu­tions to find solu­tions to era­di­cate extreme poverty. Working in part­ner­ship with people in poverty, ATD Fourth World’s human rights-based approach focu­ses on sup­por­ting fami­lies and indi­vi­duals through its grass-roots pre­sence and invol­ve­ment in disad­van­ta­ged com­mu­ni­ties, in both urban and rural areas, crea­ting public awa­re­ness of extreme poverty and influen­cing poli­cies to address it. ATD Fourth World is cur­rently pre­sent and acts in twenty-nine coun­tries over the five conti­nents, thanks to three hun­dred and seventy per­ma­nent-volun­teers, added to more than five thou­sands ATD Fourth World part­ners, one hun­dred thou­sand friends or cor­res­pon­dants. [1] Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz worked for ATD Fourth World since the begin­ning. At first per­ma­nent-volun­teer, she became President of the move­ment from 1964 to 1998, during thirty-four years, let­ting the NGO gro­wing up to its cur­rent impor­tance.

As ATD Fourth World President, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz was appoin­ted in 1988 to the Conseil économique et social [eco­no­mi­cal, social and envi­ron­men­tal coun­sel] (CES) in France, a consul­ta­tive assem­bly made up of legal repre­sen­ta­ti­ves (chair­men, trade unio­nists, asso­cia­tion repre­sen­ta­ti­ves) which can be refer­red by any citi­zens gathe­red around a peti­tion, but which bene­fits only from a consul­ta­tive func­tion (optio­nal or com­pul­sory) in the legis­la­tive pro­cess. The CES has nota­bly explai­ned in 2013 that it does not belong to its juris­dic­tion to rule on the big­gest peti­tion ever done in France about the homo­sexual mar­riage. During her man­date at the CES, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz fought for ten years for pro­mo­ting a gene­ral law against extreme poverty, espe­cially in pro­du­cing a famous report on this topic in 1995. Postponed until 1997 because of the French "Assemblée Nationale"’s dis­so­lu­tion, the gene­ral law against extreme poverty has been even­tually enac­ted in 1998. Extreme poverty is obviously a very rele­vant topic for Points-Coeur, which has orga­ni­zed on this topic two side-events in 2013 during the Human Rights Counsel at the UN in Geneva in 2013.

Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz was the first lady to obtain the highest rank of the most pres­ti­gious French deco­ra­tion "Légion d’hon­neur". She is now on the third lady to enter the Panthéon. Sainte Geneviève wel­co­mes there ano­ther great Geneviève.


[1] Information from http://www.quart-monde.ch/

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