Female Breadwinner Rocking her Role – Servane Mouazan
Servane Mouazan is the founding director of Ogunte, a company focused on supporting women-led social ventures. She is a female breadwinner that takes satisfaction from the work she does rather than the money she earns. We talk to her about forgetting to get paid, why she knows everything about cows and the importance of doing what you love.
Hi Servane, first off could you tell me a bit about your background.
I come from Brittany in France and grew up in an average lower middle class family. My mum was a teacher and my dad was a social worker but spent most of his time singing and writing books.
How has your family life shaped you?
My parents were divorced when I was very young. So I grew up in a single parent family but my dad was always present, he visited once a fortnight. My mum had the tough task of being breadwinner, bringing back money to the house and taking care of two young children. This is something I learnt a lot from- the difference between what you need and what you want, what’s superfluous and what is a real treat. It’s harsh and it leaves some scares sometimes but actually with time you reflect on this and say to yourself, she did pretty well, she did a good job.
What is your earliest memory of work?
I left home when I was 19 and I went travelling because I didn’t want to stay at home. So as you do I became an au pair in the Netherlands. It was crazy. I ended up in a single parent family there as well! I lived with a single mum speaking French much better than me but I learnt Dutch through singing, university and through post. That was my first experience of being a breadwinner in the 90s, earning money by being a singer and au pair – it made me very excited.
What did you do after your degree?
After my studies I returned to Brittany but with little experience I found it hard to find a job. Fortunately, I could speak a range of languages so found work as an interpreter. That led me into a few funny situations!
I ended up working in the farming industry taking Dutch people on trips to visit dairy farms. I knew everything about cows! Imagining putting that on a CV- it definitely shows you have a broad interest in life. Language has been an essential asset to my life and enabled me to earn quite a substantial amount of money, anywhere and at any time.
How did being a female breadwinner and a social entrepreneur come about for you?
I moved to the Netherlands again and became involved in volunteering for community development initiatives it is here that I started my journey in social enterprise. Through this work I found opportunities to help on projects in Brazil. The people I worked with at the time were telling me I was good at what I did, so why don’t I charge? So my first big story was: I had forgotten to charge for what I did! Not so good if you need to be a breadwinner.
How does it feel to be a female breadwinner?
The satisfaction is more about delivering the work and achieving something. Seeing the connections between people and bringing people together was a revelation for me. It is a rewarding experience because of the understanding that there is a point in doing all this.
Did you make any mistakes on the way?
Well when you start you of course realise you know nothing about business and that is a job in itself and you have to learn everything. I remember I organised some gigs and shows to put the light on some development initiatives, the first band I booked cost me much more than I had been paid to show them. Disaster! I learned very quickly.
Who are your role models or the important figures in your life?
Apart from my dad, in the 90s my match in energy was a singer called Skin from Skunk Anansie. I liked her because of the energy she showed on stage, her political involvement and her directed lyrics. It was a point when my interests and my passions were merging; politics, activism and performing arts.
Do you have any mentors?
On the activist side when I was in Brazil there was one artist that was particularly important to me, Marcello Uka. Sadly 11 years ago he got shot in a street robbery and he ended up in a wheelchair. Despite all the pain and the suffering he continued to deliver and compose songs. He is very strongly involved in all sorts of campaigning- when I first met him I thought we’ve got the same ideas but he has them in a good order; I’ve got them in a random order. So he became a sort of mentor to me and still is. He is going for mayor in the city of Rio in Brazil- he just never stops.
What’s been most challenging for you as a female breadwinner and social entrepreneur?
For me I can’t dissociate the money making from my political involvement or my activism or my values. Which can be bad because at the same time I have priorities; I have rent to pay, I have a son to feed so I will always need to find a cause to fight and be paid for.
That said I still do a lot of things for free, too much according to my mentor. If I say yes to too many things I am creating my own poverty, meaning I’m not sticking to my own values so I have learned it is ok to say no.
Confidence is a volatile currency and we are the first ones to sabotage ourselves so we need to always check every day about our values; are we keeping up with them? Money is part of it- what it brings, what it enables you to do and how it helps you survive but you need to be able to enjoy what you do as well.
What’s good about being a female breadwinner?
Well it is probably what is good about being a male breadwinner. I don’t put any difference on being a female breadwinner. This probably comes from my dad, when he married again he always used to say, my wife is doing work at home I just happen to be on a payroll outside the house but the money I bring is paying us all. I like that.
Female or male it depends on the stereotypes we follow. It’s about where you place value and being paid is just a technical question. My dad values what my mum and step mum do at home. But sometimes it feels like the whole of society doesn’t value what is being done at home, so there is a feeling that women will get something extra by working outside this context.
Do you think the currency of work is a problem?
Well yes. Another person I admire is Edgar Cahn founder of Time Banking. He says the whole point of one man hour as a currency is a very interesting thing because the economy doesn’t take into account all the contributions of the volunteers and the carers, and that there is a discrepancy for how we are accounting for these workers. There are some things missing from the state’s accounts. Unfortunately a lot of women are part of that category; they are in situations where they provide some sort of service that is never accounted for in pound value. We need to pay attention to that but things are changing slowly.
What do you think are some of the responsibilities of a female breadwinner?
It is important to think about how we spend our money. There is the breadwinner, the bread eater and the crumbles. Good can come when money is distributed in a new way. If someone can earn money and make it circulate so it creates more wealth and more value along the way- then that is a different category of breadwinner.
What legacy do you think you leave as a female breadwinner?
Depending on how you make your money is the nature of your legacy. I have chosen to be a social entrepreneur and I have chosen to help other social entrepreneurs and activists. That’s my thing, that’s my gig. I am not happy if I have to do something else!
What about the legacy for your son?
For my son I don’t think you can teach a child anything but manners and values. If he can say ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and be solution focused leaving his surroundings and environment in a better state than he found it, then I have done my job.
What are the top 3 lessons you’ve learnt as a result of being a female breadwinner?
Learning to charge for my work is number one! Other than that be sure you work with your assets, try not to depend on anyone or any state – sometimes you have to and it is ok but it is not a long term solution at all- and finally create opportunities for others because it will eventually create opportunities for you.