Oxford Brookes Business School

Policy Brief: Supporting Women Entrepreneurship in Conflict Ridden States

Tuesday, 02 March 2021

Policy brief

More countries are experiencing violent conflict in the last few decades. In conflict-ridden states, women entrepreneurs do increase due to the difficult political and economic conditions whilst experiencing additional challenges to those experienced by women entrepreneurs in non-conflict affected developing economies.

Despite challenges, conflict could also provide opportunities for women to involve in entrepreneurial activities which could foster economic and social development and promote peace. Therefore, supporting women entrepreruship is crucial in these fragile contexts. In our research, we investigated the experiences of women entrepreneurs where we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with a total of 30 women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. Based on the findings from this research, a policy brief was produced which discusses challenges and outlines recommendations to support women entrepreneurs starting and operating their businesses in contexts of violent conflict.

The findings revealed that the women face different challenges at the regulative, normative and cognitive levels. This includes deficiencies in the legal system, underdeveloped infrastructure, difficulties to access finance from formal institutions, corruption in terms of bribery, insecurity and movement restrictions, gendered roles, lack of social legitimacy toward entrepreneurship, and underdeveloped human capital. These challenges create incentives for the women to work in the informal economy and undermine their important role in the economic and social development in their countries.

Therefore, we propose recommendations to design contextualised support programmes which would enable women entrepreneurs to overcome some of the structural and institutional challenges and succeed in their businesses. Providing a more supportive regulative environment such as tax incentives, access to local and international markets and developed infrastructure would promote women entrepreneurship and foster their business growth. More importantly, highlighting resilience stories of women entrepreneurs in conflict contexts could eliminate stereotypes and encourage other women to engage in entrepreneurship. We should, however, acknowledge the specificity of these patriarchal conflict contexts by designing inclusive policies in terms of involving men in women’s empowerment programmes to help change their resistant attitudes to women’s entrepreneurship. Schools and universities should be the first places to change such attitudes. Therefore, integrating entrepreneurship education into all education levels would raise awareness and promote interest in entrepreneurship as a respectable career prospect for graduates in general and female graduates in particular. Training programmes and mentoring should take into consideration the security situation and childcare responsibilities by conducting training in safe locations close to the entrepreneurs’ homes and/or businesses while offering free childcare and transportation.

Read the policy brief »