Women in Nigeria: Examining the Motivations for Engaging in Social Entrepreneurship

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Grace Chinonye Ihejiamaizu
Juliet John Inyang


This paper explored the motivations for women engaging in social entrepreneurship in Nigeria. Using the theoretical lens of African feminism, the paper specifically set out to explore the extent to which three factors- gender, penchant for solving social problems and economic/financial reasons influence the desire of women to engage in social entrepreneurship in a largely patriarchal society like Africa. Existing studies adopting critical feminist perspectives have shown that across the globe, there are embedded biases and institutional constraints which could separate women from men into what is considered appropriate “entrepreneuring” for their sex category (Muntean & Ozkazanc-Pan, 2016). This implies that while it is applauded that women can get self-employed in ventures that create social good, there is the risk of creating biases that unintentionally limits the potential of women toward less-lucrative/tasking self-employment. This phenomenon raised some key questions for this paper: Do women only perform better when it comes to designing enterprises for social good? Or do the narratives show that they could lead in other forms of entrepreneurship but are not because of existing constraints? Simply put, what is the drive or motivation for engaging in social entrepreneurship? Interestingly, such a study is lacking within the African context.

 For this research, a qualitative approach was adopted. Secondary data were obtained from the Ashoka.com repository, a reputable organization and social entrepreneurship website, profiled with stories of successful women social entrepreneurs. A total of 6 research subjects were randomly selected for the study. The sample was drawn from the list of published profiles based on the year of fellowship, country and sector of operation. Data were analysed using content analysis. The findings drawn from the analysis were discussed within the purview of African feminist theory and empirical works of other social researchers. The result showed that women social entrepreneurs are majorly motivated by the desire to solve a social problem (rather than make profit), which either stems from a personal experience or those around them. This study recommends that understanding the intrinsic motivation behind their actions can help social activist and feminist organizations supporting social entrepreneurs in their work. The paper further informs interventions that foster the design of social policies and programmes for successful women social entrepreneurship practice in Africa.

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