Migrant African Women Entrepreneurs (MAWEs) involved in small business, innovation and sustainability in North Queensland (Australia).

Mrs Jane Njaramba1

1James Cook University, Cairns/Smithfield, Australia

Entrepreneurship is fundamental to social integration, especially for migrants displaced from their home countries due to political, economic, and environmental disruptions. Women tend to bear much of the burden for re-establishing their families in a new country. The survival strategy of MAWEs aims to avoid poverty and the discrimination that can be encountered in the mainstream labour market. Entrepreneurship benefits the individual, contributes to economic stability and builds sustainable communities that are accepting of migrants. Migrant women are almost always responsible for child-care and home management, responsibilities that often lead to work and family conflict.

Migrant women are in need of sustainable and profitable employment if they are to successfully provide for themselves and their families. Economic necessity, social exclusion and lack of education and skills together with high levels of unemployment and language barriers, push an increasing number of migrants towards entrepreneurship.  Participants in this study bring with them potentially valuable cultural, social and economic ties to the region. They are hard-working migrants with a diverse and rich cultural background that can contribute to growing Australia’s strength and affluence.

MAWEs, as minorities, face barriers concerning language, racism and prejudice that do not confront non-migrant entrepreneurs. In North Queensland, MAWEs represent a growing proportion of the self-employed, and many are now opting for autonomy and the return on investment that business ownership promises. This paper discusses the importance of entrepreneurship in building sustainable communities and the challenges this marginalised group faces.


Jane Njaramba is a PhD candidate at Graduate Research School, College of Arts, Society and Education, Division of Tropical Environments and societies, James Cook University, Australia. Her research interest is in expanding knowledge of commercial education, management, tourism and services, with a particular focus on researching the experiences of migrant women entrepreneurs in small businesses. Jane’s current project is entitled: Understanding small business entrepreneurship among migrant African women in North Queensland: A feminist study of lived experience, motivation, and learning


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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