In Interviews with Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise, NEWS

“ I was not really meant to be a social innovator”

This is what Djémilah Hassani told us when we first met….

Djémilah has an academic background in business, mostly focused on luxury and tourism, not very ‘social’. However, we now find her working as the international strategy expert and head of Regional Strategies of Social Solidarity Economy (RSSSE) at the Chamber of Social Solidarity Economy of Mayotte.

Djémilah is passionate about creating bridges between the local small community and the global community. After the experience of studying abroad in the US and in Europe, she feels she is able to better connect with the local and global communities. Djémilah learns by doing, practical experience is essential for her especially when we live in a world which is constantly moving. She wants to challenge traditional biases and presumptions through her work within social entrepreneurship. The creativity that it provides benefits her goals, consequently benefiting the community through her work within the social economy.

When Djémilah was 23 years old and freshly graduated from university, she could barely see any woman of colour bringing any changes or being represented. There were limited examples of women who were not afraid to challenge the “Status Quo” and she wanted to change that. To this day Djemilah continues to encourage people to have ambition and not be ashamed of wanting to improve themselves. She believes that everyone in this world has something to speak up for. By having representation of such empowerment, it encourages inspiration and a sense that – “I can also do it ”.

Once she had completed her MBA in luxury business, Djémilah felt that something was missing in her life. She returned to the Island of Mayotte where she heard of a job opportunity at her now workplace, CRESS; this, she felt, was her chance to get involved with her community and make a change. After joining CRESS in 2018 Djemilah began coordinating a program for local development on the island. She started creating a networking system and later on collectively building the organisation from the ground up.

Her work involved planning and coordinating a regional strategy, identifying future social innovators and initiatives through micro-local hubs as well establishing relationships with all stakeholders of the social economy ecosystem. It was a position that brought everyone together towards making a positive social impact. This was hugely important as Djémilah’s perspective about diversity in the workplace is that representation matters.

Her entrance into the field of social economy was an opportunity to showcase representation and advancement in the workforce. Djémilah believes that her motivation is driven by the profound sense of community present on the island and among her people. Djémilah says that the strength is palpable in the workforce and from the women who then came forward to join her and are driven purely by a benefit to the community.

According to the historical and economical background of the island of Mayotte, Djémilah stated that 77% of the people live under the poverty line so the social economy plays an important role by creating more jobs in certain sectors and providing a better quality of life.

Social economy is an asset that can be used for this, and that needs to be exploited. Djémilah’s message to other women leaders and the younger generation of women in chasing their dreams:

“I hope that the younger generation of women will not lose faith in the world even if it may seem uncertain and it is in a certain way. However, Hope should be found by creating sustainable communities, groups and organisations that can benefit the world constructively and positively.I hope that younger generations of women will not be afraid to be WOMEN and choose what is fair and good-hearted even when the world seems to show the opposite! I hope they will not be afraid to use their creativity, love, and capacity to build and think of concrete solutions for communities. I strongly believe that changing the world tomorrow will be about community, sharing resources, knowledge and meeting one another. The Covid-19 crisis will not be the last one and it is better to navigate with others rather than being alone. I am deeply convinced that women have a strong capacity to build strategic partnerships to not only create human connections but also build efficient and collective roadmaps for local solutions for an international influence.”

Social economy itself can connect different territories and stories, creating potential for a diplomatic relationship if needed. Along with such, Djémilah stresses the importance of social values and their differences from country to country. Being respectful, conscious of economic diversity and more human towards in our approach is how we can collectively create impact.

Furthermore, Djémilah has seen how opportunities in the workforce, available to women can be a gamechanger. Often, the presence of a social enterprise with a wide network provides a safe haven for women facing domestic violence or educational hardships. Empowerment is not only encouraging ambition, but also giving an opportunity to be able to pursue that mobilization.

Community building and human connection are the pillars of Djémilah motivation. Through the implementation of a social economy business model, it is possible to tell a story, bringing together all the different parts of an ecosystem, leaving a blueprint for future generations.

As for women leaders, Djémilah encourages everyone to be true to themselves and never lose their authenticity and integrity. She has found that sometimes there is too much asking for women leaders to be authoritative, but in the social enterprise sector, women leaders are encouraged to stay the way they are, that is, to bring your own truth to your management”.

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