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Empowerment, resilience and impact: understanding women artisans' lives and livelihoods in Africa




Edgar, Stacey, author
Williford, Anne, advisor
Currin-Mcculloch, Jennifer, committee member
Yuma, Paula, committee member
White, Allison, committee member

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This three article dissertation shines a light on women artisans and examines the often overlooked role they play in establishing and maintaining resilient communities in developing countries. While women's empowerment and opportunities through entrepreneurship has received significant attention through the lens of sustainable development and poverty alleviation, little scholarship has examined the unique attributes of the artisan sector, the second largest employer in developing countries. Artisan craft work not only meets women's economic needs as necessity entrepreneurs, but also creates significant social, environmental, and cultural impacts locally, nationally, and globally. Therefore, I present three unique studies and establish a conceptual framework to explore the ripple effect of artisan entrepreneurship in the craft sector. I further connect the social work and social entrepreneurship literature and explore the role social work can play in supporting and advancing artisan work as empowering work for women. Study one is a systematic literature review (SLR) that identifies the critical role artisan employment plays in empowering marginalized women in Africa and defines how social workers can engage in effecting change with women artisans experiencing poverty. Study two provides an instrumental case study of an artisan social enterprise in Zambia exploring the values and practices of the organization that contributed to community resilience, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The final study employs a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach to identifying and exploring the social and environmental impact of artisan ventures in Zambia. Taken together this research highlights the importance of artisan craft employment for women in Africa, illustrates the impact of artisan enterprises on community resilience as well as social and environmental impact, and presents critical areas for future research exploration, as well as the policy and practice implications of this important sector.


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