Meet Antoinette Botti, Managing Director of Ging. A citizen of the world, born in the Ivory Coast on the west coast of Africa, Antoinette studied in France and now lives in Norway. She is a strong believer of women's leadership and empowerment.
Her product, Ging, is a healthy and powerful drink made from natural ingredients and inspired by an old African recipe that her grandmother passed on to her. Ging, or Gnamakoudji as it is called locally in the Ivory Coast, is made of ginger roots. Ginger is often used as an expectorant, pain reliever and body warmer.
Ogunte: What is different about you?
Antoinette Bodi: Well I was born in the 1960s. In this decade, most West African countries, including my own country, became independant from the colonial power. Girls at that time weren´t prioritized at all when it came to education - not even before the 60's. From my greatgrandmother, to my grandmother and my mother, girls' education was unfortunately not an issue to be discussed. Because girls were meant to get married, have children and take care of the family. That pattern is unfortunately still going on in some places in our world.
I remember I was very often asked to lead small activities when teachers were at meetings or leading other activities...
In Africa, Asia and India, many girls are still not allowed to go to school. I am one of the luckiest who went to school because my father insisted when my grandmother didn´t want to leave me with him - I was raised by my grandmother after my mother died when I was only two years old. So I grew up with my grandmother until I was seven years and could start primary school. I saw very early that I had leadership skills. I was different from my peers. I did good in school and found myself two times in higher grade before the end of the year and was the youngest in the class every time. I was not afraid of taking responsibilities every time I was asked by my teachers to do so. I remember I was very often asked to lead small activities when teachers were at meetings or leading other activities... This helped me develop my leadership skills.
I founded the Panafrican Women´s Association in Norway (PAWA) in 2005, a platform for immigrant women of African origin with the aim of facilitating their transition and integration into Norwegian society and was its leader until 2010.
In 2012, I started the Zomadré Women´s project with women in my village. My vision is to give the women who could not finish their education an unique oportunity to be economically independent, and take better care of their family. I live between two cultures my Ivorian culture and my Norwegian culture. This gives me the opportunity to choose the best of each cultures to do something better. Though the Zomadré Women´s project I give leadership training and empower women in my village. This is my contribution, my collaboration to impact and how I change the world around me.
O: How do you manage to successfully run your venture?
Believing in yourself, being strongly grounded, having a clear vision, is key.
O: What do you know now that you wished you had known from the beginning?
AB: Thank god I didn't know the challenges I was going to meet in this venture! I am glad that I was not aware what was waiting for me. But I have learned along these years that believing in yourself, being strongly grounded, having a clear vision, is key.
O: What questions do your clients never ask you, you wished they did…
My clients love my product and my brand and the story behind. Norwegian people are curious about culture and they like things that are original, so I always get questions about the women I am working with, my grandmother, girls and education in my country...
I am also asked how I have managed to get on the Norwegian market knowing that is a difficult maket to penetrate, especially with a new product.
O: What ideal conversation would you love to have with an investor?
AB: The conversation will be about the vision, where will Ging be in five, ten, twenty years etc... and how the investor can be part of a partnership; what is in it for him, and what I will get.
O: How do you close the gender gap in your day to day activities?
AB: As an entrepreneur and in my field I always see who is at the top in my industry and that will be my goal to beat. I don´t want to see myself as a female, as an African or as a woman from African origin. I am very often confronted with men in my field. From production to distribution and to retailers etc... over 50% of them are men but I don´t let that be a barrier.
I always look back to my childhood, my society, and realised that this is what my life was designed to look like.
O: If you were not doing what you are doing now, what other business or activity would you be contributing to…?
AB: I believe that education opens doors for both girls and boys. I know for sure that if girls' education had been prioritized in Africa and in the so called "third world", poverty could have been reduced. So I will always use my time to give education and training to those who did not get the opportunity.
O: What is a pivotal moment in your life as a woman social entrepreneur?
AB: It's the moment where I have to take decisions and express myself.
O: If i tell you “financial literacy”, what are you telling me?
AB: Dignity, freedom, flexibility and being able to make decisions in your life.
O: If i tell you “measuring your social impact”, what are you telling me?
AB: Motivation and hope. Since I started the Zomdré Women´s project women in my village, more women are motivated and are willing to change their life. Not only women in the village but other women from the neighboring villages are also organising to join the Zomadré Women´s project. People always need a role model, a mentor.
O: If I tell you “love”, what are you telling me?
AB: Myself, my life, my daughter, my grandmother, my mom, my father, the work I am doing now and the women in my village.
O: How does your world look like in 2030?
AB: More educated girls and women in Africa, and everywhere there are no opportunities for women to get an education. I see more women in the workforce and the entrepreneurial sector. I see a peaceful world with tolerance and respect for each other because the world the way it looks today is not going in the right direction, in my opinion.
Discover Ging, made in Norway rooted in Africa on www.ging.no
If you are a woman social entrepreneur, pin your social venture on the global #ImpactWomen map!
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