“My Work is My Future”: A Case Study of an NGO’s Educational Programs for Women Entrepreneurs in West Africa
MetadataShow full item record
This study investigated the educational programs of an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) operating in a developing region. The purpose of this study was to examine the exchange between an international NGO and the women entrepreneurs enrolled in that NGO’s educational programs. Specifically, I explored the ways the NGO and program participants influenced one another. The study’s conceptual framework drew from Vella’s principles of effective adult learning and global feminist theory. Using a qualitative case study approach, the single-case design focused on an international NGO operating in a West African country. In its tenth year of operations, this fair-trade organization provided training and educational programs for an extensive network of women entrepreneurs and facilitated the export of their products abroad. Data consisted of documents, observations, and interviews. Documents included extensive training and course materials, NGO publications and reports, and internal planning memos. Observational data were collected from training events, NGO staff and strategic meetings, and daily interactions with employees, volunteers, and the local women entrepreneurs. Fifteen women participated in this study, including two full-time permanent NGO employees, two short-term student volunteers, and 11 local entrepreneurs. All participants had engaged with the NGO’s educational programs in one of three possible roles: learner, instructor, or program manager. Findings were developed using a thematic analysis of the qualitative data set. Although the present case centers on an NGO that would generally be regarded as successful, findings indicated opportunities for increased efficacy and collaboration. Five major themes emerged from the analysis, including gendered work, ongoing cultural and communication barriers, a precarious balance between the goals of economic justice (e.g., living wages and reasonable work hours) and social justice (e.g., empowerment and education), limited educational program resources as a barrier to success, and pride. Findings from this study highlighted challenges and opportunities for NGOs working in developing regions. The ways in which this NGO’s educational programs addressed aspects of the UN’s MDGs and UNESCO’s agenda of international adult education have implications for both theory and practice. The present study can inform the educational agendas of others in similar circumstances or with similar social justice mandates.
Zarestky, Jill (2014). “My Work is My Future”: A Case Study of an NGO’s Educational Programs for Women Entrepreneurs in West Africa. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from