Stepping up for business: insights from a pilot program for migrant and refugee women

Seuwandi Wickramasinghe and Maria Mupanemunda

A micro-enterprise program for women from refugee, migrant and asylum-seeking backgrounds shows why it is important to tailor financial literacy and business training to participants’ contexts and to support multiple pathways to economic security.

At a glance

Our study of Stepping Stones to Small Business found that:

  • financial literacy training can positively inform money management choices but information alone does not guarantee financial wellbeing
  • personal experiences, social relationships, cultural norms and values shaped how the women viewed money
  • the women preferred practical and interactive business training activities to cater for different learning styles
  • for those who are locked out of mainstream employment, micro-enterprise can generate some income to help make ends meet, but the road to business viability is rocky
  • women at different stages of business development have different mentoring needs
  • well-defined partnerships offer mutual benefits
  • a strengths-based gender- and culturally responsive approach suited women.

Dive deeper

Stepping Stones is a Brotherhood of St. Laurence micro-enterprise program developed in 2011 for women from refugee, migrant and asylum-seeking backgrounds living in Melbourne. It aims to help women achieve financial wellbeing by increasing their knowledge of starting a business, building skills to support micro-enterprise development and expanding their social and support networks.

In 2017, funding was received from Ecstra Foundation to pilot a new model, Stepping Stones to Small Business. Delivered by a partnership comprising Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Now to Launch and BSL Youth Programs, this new model had a sharper focus on enhancing participants’ financial literacy. It comprised four components:

  • Empowerment Pathways training to develop personal and business goals
  • MoneyMinded training to increase financial literacy skills
  • small business training to enhance related expertise
  • post-program support to connect each participant to a suitable mentor, and to facilitate access to local markets, information sessions and business-related workshops.

Last updated on 14 January 2021



Related publications

By Eve Bodsworth with Juliana Lobo de Queiroz and Rebecca Meddings 2014

Stepping Stones is a micro-business program for women of refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Read report
By Eve Bodsworth 2013

Progress report about Stepping Stones, a micro-enterprise program for refugee and disadvantaged migrant women.

Read report