In the week where UK’s gender pay gap was fully revealed, we chatted to Servane Mouazan, CEO of Ogunte CIC and top influential women in social enterprise (WISE100, 2017). We chatted about what makes women’s social enterprises unique, the fragility of women’s hard-won rights, the loneliness of being a founder, and why being driven by your passion in the most important thing you can ever be.  

Q: What’s unique about Ogunte? 

We believe in social impact made by women, and the bold solutions they are developing to create sustainable opportunities where they are based. Since 2001, Ogunte is supporting activists, social entrepreneurs, campaigners and foundations to build a world worth sharing and living in. Our particularity is we work with and for women leaders, and we boost their participation as civic, political and economic contributors. As our specific remit is social entrepreneurship, we also know that, to make it work, we have to foster gender equality, empathy, look at systems and policies that create space for women in all their multiplicity, instead of hindering them.

Q: What inspired you to start?

I grew up in a vocal family in France, they were interested in social matters, social justice, fairness, equality, each in their own way. In 2000, I started collaborating with politically engaged artists in Brazil, who merged their art with their political activism. Doing so gave me the permission to be hybrid in my approach to foster social change. I just got on with it. Social entrepreneurship offered a diversity I hadn’t found anywhere else.

Photo credit: Ogunte

“You need to cherish these encounters that shift something in you.” 

Q: What’s your biggest achievement to date?

To have stuck with my vocation to support women in their multiplicity, through social entrepreneurship. There are days when I don’t know if it is about staying power or stubbornness. But at least you can look back and see how things have changed. At Ogunte, we have supported ca 7000 individuals to date, either though courses, events or more tailored support.

“We have connected women around the world, created a family of movers and shakers, who can talk business, achievements and powerful gains, but also don’t shy away from sharing failures, fears and doubts. ”

Q: What’s your plans for the next 6 months or year?

Looking for a golden collaboration to invest in women who work on high growth community enterprises, around important themes, such as commodities, human rights, political representation, land’s rights, environment, tech for good, etc…

Q: What do you wish you’d known at the beginning? Has inspiration come from unexpected places?

That the road can be solitary at times. I foster thousands and thousands of connections over the years, but if I could do it again, I would definitely put more efforts in cherishing personal friendships and be more selfish about it. IE. : making more time and space to build these private relationships.

“The civic space is shrinking, human; rights are fragile.  Every year, a woman in activism I know gets assassinated. So what inspires me to get going is the need to stay alert and act as if the world really mattered. Now. ” 

Attendees at a recent session. Photo credit: Ogunte

Q: What’s the one thing you wish people understood about women’s empowerment and women’s employment?

There are many of course but if you read Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”  you will get a significant overview of why women’s subordination and the fact they have to live through inequality everywhere – and in some places and for some women, the cruelty of inequality is worse – is creating a global mayhem.

So the first thing we can do is creating the condition for ourselves as women to grow, sit firmly at the decision making-table (not just observe) and be heard, or at least help someone else, even in just a tiny way, to grow and reach a next step.

Here’s an interview I did recently on this very topic!: https://vimeo.com/93184378

 Q: How can people get involved? 

Thanks to Servane Mouazan, CEO of Ogunte CIC, and 1 of the WISE100, 100 women influencing Social Enterprise – RBS – Natwest – Pioneers Post, 2017 and shortlisted as the Social Enterprise Women’s Champion of the Year – Social Enterprise UK Awards 2014.