Groupe Entre-Femmes de l’Outaouais celebrates its 40th anniversary and dedicates booklet to late founder
Celebrating four decades of bringing women together through arts, crafts, wellness and coffee, the Groupe Entre-Femmes de l’Outaouais (GEFO) gathered this summerto celebrate their 40th anniversary and honour the late founder of the women’s group Yolande Duval.
The intimate celebration filled with laughter, food, poems and a rally prize which had GEFO members and Duval’s children in attendance, was also an opportunity to get a first look at the booklet which was published to honour Duval’s hard work.
“Yolande Duval: A women deeply committed to social justice,” highlights Duval’s upbringing, home and family life, militancy within the Hull community and the founding of GEFO in 17 pages. While short, the booklet holds dear value to those who were close to her personally and professionally and provides context for those who are not familiar with the GEFO or Duval’s militant and activism work.
“Yolande always believed that she could make a difference, that’s what you call faith and if you don’t have faith, you don’t take action,” said GEFO president Nicole Brunet. “She had something within her, and it was deep. She knew that all her deeds even the small ones made a difference for others, especially women and that’s why she created GEFO.”
Described as “ahead of her time,” by GEFO members, Duval founded the organization from the comfort of her living room in 1982. She would host women in her home which eventually became her office weekly, coming to be known for her infamous soup. The Hull militant volunteered her time tirelessly. At the time, Duval was amongst the 5,000 Hull residents who had been expropriated out of their homes and was no stranger to spending hours on the phone with women helping and advising them the best she could. Paul Duval, her youngest son, recalls watching his mother work towards what GEFO has become today.
“I remember when she first started her women’s group, she still worked at ADDS and her objective was to get women out of the kitchen. It started slowly with Gisèle, her lifelong friend and more women got involved—about three to four women,” he said. “I was the youngest, so she dragged me everywhere with her and I would help. Now, it’s impressive to see that this group still exists.”
GEFO’s founder always aspired to broaden local women’s horizons — through her workshops, advice, and resources she showed women that they could have an identity, life and hobbies outside of their home, a concept which was uncommon in the 80s.
Today, the organization’s objective has remained the same while introducing new elements including weekly exercise and stretching, strawberry picking in June, collective cooking, acrylic painting, and health education workshops with auxiliary nurses. New members, as young as 15 years old have also joined the women’s group bringing freshness to the tightknit bunch.
As the day went on, GEFO members, many of whom have been present since its launch, were invited to recall their interactions with Duval and appreciate how far GEFO has come since it’s humble beginnings. With each touching story, funny anecdote and fond memory that was recounted the common denominator was always Duval’s love for helping others. 40 years later, Duval’s values, mission and vision for the GEFO are still well and alive.
“She was a woman of action,” said Brunet. “She didn’t just talk about wanting to change things, she would act towards change, whether it was in Hull or wherever else she set foot.”
Photo caption: GEFO members and Yolande Duval’s son Paul Duval (far left) gathered on this summer on June 23 at 115 boul. Sacré-Coeur for the women’s group 40th anniversary. Each person is holding a copy of the recently published booklet dedicated to the late founder: “Yolande Duval: A women deeply committed to social justice.”
Photo credit: Djeneba Dosso