Mary Johnson Osirim investigates the business and personal experiences of women entrepreneurs in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to understand their successes, challenges, and contributions to development. These businesswomen work in the microenterprise sector—which is defined as businesses that employ five workers or fewer—with many working as market traders, crocheters, seamstresses, and hairdressers. The women who took part in Osirim's research during the 1990s pursued their businesses, reinvested profits, engaged in innovation, and provided employment, and through their work supported households and extended family and social networks. Osirim finds that, despite major problems, the Zimbabwean businesswomen maintained their enterprises and their households and managed to contribute in significant ways to their community and national development in the face of an economic structural adjustment program. Osirim also explores the impact of state and non-governmental organizations on small business operations. Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe offers a comprehensive study of women's role as entrepreneurs in the microeconomic sector that shows them as agents during challenging political and economic times.
This is a tentative table of contents.
2. Shaping the Discourse on Women, Development and the Microenterprise Sector: The Feminist Political Economy Paradigm and the Modern History of Zimbabwe
3. Market Traders: Persisting against Difficult Odds
4. Crocheters and Knitters: Creativity and Innovation in Production
5. Hairdressers and Seamstresses: Higher Status in the Microenterprise Sector?
6. Entrepreneurship, the State, and the Development of Civil Society
Osirim spent much of the 1990s in two cities in Zimbabwe, observing and interviewing 157 women running extremely small enterprises (five or fewer employees, most simply owner-operated) and interviewing government and nongovernmental organization officials. Osirim, a US-born sociologist who codirects the Center for International Studies at Bryn Mawr College, beautifully renders these women's lives and the changing living and working conditions, institutions, and systems of inequality and governance that shape them. The resulting book, with a chapter each about crocheters, traders, and hairdressers and seamstresses, describes and analyzes urban Zimbabwean women's small-scale business enterprises through the sensitizing lens of feminist political economy. That means Osirim attends to everything from women's routes into and changing routines of microenterprise to the substance and effects of globalization and structural adjustment and everything in between, including the quality of women's relationships and their contributions to human capital formation and development in postcolonial Zimbabwe. Osirim's synthesis of the scholarly literature on economic development and her accessible presentation of the feminist political economy perspective invaluably complement the empirical materials through which she gives voice to the resilience of these enterprising women. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. —Choice~L. D. Brush
A welcome addition to the literature. These are really fascinating women, as anyone who has ever encountered them can attest, and their story deserves to be told.~Michael West, Binghamton University
[This book] describes and analyzes urban Zimbabwean women's small-scale business enterprises through the sensitizing lens of feminist political economy.~Choice
A major contribution in the field of women's entrepreneurship in Africa.~Nancy Horn, independent consultant in African development