Young Women and Feminised Work: Complicating Narratives of Empowerment through Entrepreneurship with the Stories of Coffeehouse Owners in Wukro, Ethiopia

Author: Zoë Johnson

Development narratives posit that, through entrepreneurship, young women can become empowered economic agents, instrumental to the development of their communities. As feminist scholars have pointed out, these narratives serve to homogenise, depoliticise, and ahistoricise the category of ‘young woman’ and to naturalise the inequitable global structures in which it is embedded. To universalise young womanhood is to ignore the ways in which young women’s lives are shaped by their cultural contexts and by structural constraints. As a result, most development schemes targeting young women as entrepreneurs fail to recognise the ways in which engaging in entrepreneurship can reinforce rather than break down gendered differences and vulnerabilities.

Using life herstory methods grounded in feminist methodologies, this article tells the stories of young women coffeehouse owners in Wukro, Ethiopia, revealing some of the often-overlooked sociocultural issues facing young women entrepreneurs in development contexts.

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