Building Businesses, Rebuilding Lives: Microenterprise and Welfare Reform

Can microenterprise help women overcome their barriers to employment?
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This paper focuses on the challenges facing, and strategies employed by, microenterprise programs as they work to help women on welfare to achieve self-sufficiency. Specifically, the paper presents an overview of the experiences of ten organizations that operate microenterprise programs and the clients of which include women on welfare.

The paper builds on the findings of studies that:

  • Examined the impact of self-employment on helping women to move from welfare to self-sufficiency;
  • Found that microenterprise can provide a route out of poverty for people on welfare.

It argues that:

  • The booming economy has provided employment opportunities enabling the job-ready to move swiftly off the rolls;
  • Their exodus has left on welfare many with profound barriers to self-sufficiency;
  • Barriers range from the personal circumstances of women’s lives, to health, family, social and vocational issues;
  • The new welfare policies, with their rigid emphasis on moving a woman into any job as soon as possible, also pose a daunting barrier;
  • Despite these barriers, enterprise development agencies are employing a host of strategies to help women on welfare to become economically self-sufficient.

The paper presents case studies of barriers faced and strategies employed. It concludes by presenting strategies in the areas of:

  • Addressing personal barriers;
  • Providing business training, support and capital;
  • Integrating microenterprise training with other employment opportunities;
  • Advocating for welfare policies favorable to microenterprise;
  • Collaborating with welfare departments and adapting programs to welfare policies.

About this Publication

By Bonavoglia, A. & Wadia, A.