Based on a series of interviews conducted throughout the 1990s, Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe discusses the business and personal experiences of women entrepreneurs in the cities of Harare and Bulawayo, who worked in the market trade, crocheting, sewing, and hairdressing professions of the microenterprise sector.

What Mary Johnson Osirim discovers is a remarkable resilience in the face of major challenges, in particular those brought on by the 1991 Economic Structural Adjustment Program. These women managed to maintain both their businesses and their households, while at the same time contributing to community and national development. Osirim's study also explores the impact of state and non-governmental organizations on small business operations. In the end, she offers a comprehensive view of women’s perseverance, their ingenuity as entrepreneurs, and the critical role they played in shaping economic development.

Mary Johnson Osirim is professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for International Studies at Bryn Mawr College.


List of Tables and Figures

1. Introduction: Why Study Zimbabwean Women Entrepreneurs in a Globalizing Era?

2. Shaping the Discourse on Women and Development: Theory and History in the Study of Women and the Microenterprise Sector

3. Crocheters as Dynamic Innovators and Producers of Material Culture

4. “The Market Sustains Me”: Traders Persisting under Difficult Odds

5. Hairdressers and Seamstresses: Pathways to Success in a Challenging Environment?

6. To Support or Not to Support Women’s Microenterprises: The State, NGOs, Informal Associations, and Coping Strategies

7. Conclusion: Moving beyond Simple Survival in the Microenterprise Sector


“The comparative nature of Dr. Osirim’s work constitutes a major contribution in the field of women’s entrepreneurship in Africa.”—Nancy Horn, independent consultant in African development

Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe is 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