Once they have established their own business, MAWEs will hire other African women and teach them English and other essential business skills to continue the cycle.
Businesses run by MAWEs include hair salons, catering companies, clothing stores and African goods stores.
Despite their efforts, MAWEs face a barrage of challenges that make running a successful business very difficult.
Language barriers are one of the biggest issues. While some women, like Jane, come to Australia as skilled migrants, others come as refugees from war-torn countries like Somalia, Sudan and the Congo.
“These women have never been to school,” Jane said. “They don’t know a lot of English. Because English is the only mode of communication in Australia, it’s very hard for them to get jobs.”
Further difficulties MAWEs have found include gender and racial discrimination in the society.
"Australian communities need to be accepting of migrants. We need to preach how to avoid unconscious bias, need to learn to be aware," Jane said. "People in power need to think about what they can do to support these women and help them integrate into the Australian economy.
"MAWEs are marginalised communities. Entrepreneurship is very much gendered."
Learning how to adapt to a Western business model is also a challenge.
“Financial management is an issue for these women,” Jane said. “Australia is very regulated when it comes to running businesses – you have to do your bookkeeping, you have to do your tax returns, these women aren’t accountants. Some of them don’t even know how to write. They need education and mentorship by businesspeople with these skills.
“An African proverb by Kwegyir-Aggrey says that ‘if you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family’.”
“I want to illuminate the experiences of these women and improve the future for them.”
Jane Njaramba, JCU PhD student