Social Enterprise and Its Potential for Empowerment and Enhanced Self-Esteem Among Female Bhutanese Refugees
Methods: Extensive semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve Bhutanese refugee women who participated in a twelve week financial education course and knitted market-quality scarves as part of the WORN project, a newly developed social enterprise strategy designed to increase the incomes of recently resettled refugee families. Interviews were conducted and recorded in Nepalese, transcribed verbatim, and translated into English by the bilingual interviewer. Transcripts were independently coded by a three member research team, and analysis included the creation of a culturally relevant classification system of codes, themes, and subthemes, and an ongoing discussion of developing themes until group consensus was reached.
Results: Women valued both purposeful financial education as well as the opportunity to participate in social enterprise. They spoke of empowerment through renewed self-confidence and enhanced self-esteem that they attributed to knitting scarves that were sold for profit. They also discussed culturally centered factors such as collectivism and shared experience as key to learning and growth among their community of Bhutanese refugee women.
Conclusion and Implications: This study provides initial insight into improving the lived experiences of recently resettled Bhutanese women and explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of social enterprise efforts among this group. The lessons learned have implications not only for Bhutanese refugees, but for resettled women from other nations as well. Ultimately, participating in a shared community of learning and development provides an opportunity for the women to interact and engage with one another over time, which may have a buffering effect on the stressors that develop as formal resettlement assistance services decrease.