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From rags to riches and riches to rags again: tale of women informal retail traders in Zimbabwe


  • Mandla Nyathi

    () (National University of Science and Technology)

  • Thokozani Khupe

    () (University of Zimbabwe)

  • Watchy Ruparanganda

    () (University of Zimbabwe)


The purpose of the study was to investigate how the women informal retail traders moved from poverty and hardship to success and then back to poverty and hardships in Bulawayo. The study used a mixed research design to interrogate these interesting phenomena on women empowerment dynamics in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and the African patriarchal society. The study found that the development of the informal retail sector empowered women at some point. The acquisition of assets and ability to finance own health needs is the evidence that supports the notion of empowerment by these women. That empowerment was, however, not sustainable due to, inter alia, unplanned nature of the participation of women into these informal markets, lack of education, poor business management skills and declining economic environment. The study found that the economic bubble of success that many women informal retail traders enjoyed at some point in their businesses was a false one. However, it led some women to move from the proverbial rags to riches and then back to rags in a fashion. It was a cycle anticipated by very women. This intriguing experience of women informal retail traders would provoke the intellectual curiosity of many social science researchers in this field. The study and its findings would make an interesting read to social scientists as much as it would do to policymakers and casual readers interested in the African patriarchal family, women empowerment and the informal sector. In so doing, it will contribute to the growing body of knowledge in this area of study.

Suggested Citation

  • Mandla Nyathi & Thokozani Khupe & Watchy Ruparanganda, 2016. "From rags to riches and riches to rags again: tale of women informal retail traders in Zimbabwe," International Journal of Social Sciences, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, vol. 5(2), pages 58-72, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sek:jijoss:v:5:y:2016:i:2:p:58-72

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. François Bourguignon & Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Marta Menéndez, 2013. "Inequality of Opportunity in Brazil: A Corrigendum," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 59(3), pages 551-555, September.
    2. ., 2013. "Qualitative change and quantitative growth," Chapters, in: The Rediscovery of Classical Economics, chapter 3, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Lakhwinder Singh Kang & Deepak, 2013. "Determinants of Quality of Work Life," Management and Labour Studies, XLRI Jamshedpur, School of Business Management & Human Resources, vol. 38(1-2), pages 25-38, February.
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    More about this item


    Informal retail trade; women empowerment; sustainable development; African patriarchal family and asset ownership;

    JEL classification:

    • E03 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Behavioral Macroeconomics
    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development


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