“I started the Global African Business Women’s Network as a way of making sure that women in the informal sector are not left behind…. That had actually be influenced by what I learned about the Antigonish Movement, and applying those principles of an education that transforms the lives of people.”
“You just have to find ways to survive somehow. And like most women, we have to just look at wherever the opportunities are and go for it.”
Yvonne Marimo (Diploma in Development Leadership, 2011) returned to Coady Institute in 2019 for the Katherine Fleming International Development Award Fellowship. A small-scale farmer in horticulture and livestock, Yvonne is also the founder of Global African Business Women’s Network (GAWN).
“The economic environment in Zimbabwe at the moment is very challenging,” Yvonne says, noting the country’s rapidly rising inflation rates, and the often difficult to navigate multi-currency system that has resulted due to devaluing of Zimbabwe’s dollar.
“Just as an example, if you’re going to a shop and you’re buying a product, shops are putting up notices saying, ‘customers, please be warned that by the time you pick an item and get to the till, the price may change’,” she explains. “So we are going to have to help [entrepreneurs] to navigate that kind of system.”
GAWN supports women in creating and maintaining income opportunities through self-employment. They offer workshops in enterprise and finance, networking and peer-support opportunities, and host business exposure visits.
“A business exposure visit is taking a group of women to places where there are wholesalers or markets, and connecting them, so that they’re able to buy goods and then come [home] and resell them,” Yvonne explains. “We go maybe to Johannesburg, or Zambia, or many different places.”
Yvonne says her experience at Coady in 2011 helped shape the organization she founded in 2012 – namely through learning about the Institute’s origins in the Antigonish Movement, and through the asset-based community-development (ABCD) approach the institute espouses.
“I started the Global African Business Women’s Network as a way of making sure that women in the informal sector are not left behind in these kinds of challenging times – that they’re organized,” she says. “That had actually be influenced by what I learned about the Antigonish Movement, and applying those principles of an education that transforms the lives of people.”
“Looking at it in a way that looks at what they have – what assets they have – and how we can tap into those assets and create opportunities that inspire women to use their own assets to create opportunities for themselves in order to be able to survive in this kind of challenging environment.”
Although the organization originated in Zimbabwe, it has grown into a borderless initiative.
“It has evolved since 2012. The women in my group work in different clusters. Some of them are what we call cross-border women; they look for markets in other neighbouring countries. I also felt it was important to connect with the diaspora – the African diaspora. So, we added bits to it when we went along.”
Yvonne has drawn much of her inspiration from watching her mother’s efforts to support her children through schooling.
“I am passionate about [helping others] because I came through that system. I saw my mother doing exactly what these women are doing. In a way, for me, it is a way of honouring my mother’s legacy. Through each of those women, I see my mother in them. That is my motivation. That is my passion, because I just know how much she struggled.”