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Fighting Discrimination in France

During a semester abroad in Paris, Natalie Zych quickly learned that the city was very different from the cultural mélange of New York City, which she calls home. "Paris is a fairly homogenous city," says Zych, with minorities and immigrants living on the outskirts. At a dinner party with her host family, one guest mentioned neighbors who were selling their apartment and had refused an offer from a black couple. "Discrimination is a problem in France," says Zych. And this summer she is working to fight it.

Thanks to funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Zych, an English major and French minor, is interning with the Federation Nationale des Maisons des Potes (FNMP) and SOS Racisme, two NGOs that work together to fight discrimination and promote equality in France. She has been learning about differences between the French and American legal systems and writing articles for FNMP's publication "Pote à Pote." She has also been researching possible American funding opportunities for FNMP and supporting a new SOS Racisme project which will help high school students from underprivileged areas find internships.

"I wanted to intern with a French [NGO] in order to see the differences between non-profit work in the U.S. and France," she says. "I was also interested in the issues surrounding discrimination in France and wanted to learn what FNMP and SOS Racisme are doing to combat them." These issues include promoting racial tolerance, women's rights, social justice, and equality for people seeking housing and employment.

Zych has enjoyed learning about the history of urbanization in France and is currently working on a research project involving class actions concerning public housing in the U.S and England. Zych learned about this internship while studying in Paris this past spring with the Sweet Briar College Junior Year in France program. She worked with FNMP on a part time basis from February to the end of May and started working full time in early June.

"I've been able to speak, read and write a lot in French—something that is really important for me to continue improving and working on," she says. This internship has also furthered Zych’s interest in public interest legal work. "In the future I would like to pursue an internship opportunity with a nonprofit whose focus is providing legal representation and services," she says.

--Heather Harden '11

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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