POL Posts: Blogs, Reports & Updates
November 30, 2018

Impact of our Micro Loans Program in 2018

You Are Empowering Vulnerable Women

Thanks for helping create a community of empowered and self-reliant women. Together we can empower women and end poverty. The United Nations Sustainable Development goals inlcude ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives, and providing education to all children by 2030. This can be done with adequate social protection for vulnerable groups, sustainable food production, lower food prices, and ending AIDS, TB and malaria. Our program activities are designed to end poverty and empower women.

Highlights of Program activities in 2018   

  • Active Loans: Currently, we have 400 women running businesses, benefitting approximately 2800 family members. 
  • Business training: 175 new women were provided with business training in 2018.
  • Refresher training: 93 women were provided with refresher training in June 2018.
  • Cholera outbreak: Businesses impacted by the cholera outbreak earlier this year, have stabilized.     
  • Weekly Meetings: All women meet weekly to make repayments, learn from other business owners, and discuss issues of importance to them such as HIV prevention and care, importance of school, and challenges faced in running their businesses. These meetings result in women building strong social networks. 
  • Ongoing business monitoring: All businesses are visited on-site by the loans officer to provide business advice on product display, maintenance of accounts, book keeping, inventory management etc.
  • Pilot Internship module: A pilot internship module was added to the existing business training modules. This new module is a hands-on internship to be completed before receipt of a loan.
  • Mentoring club: A few women have formed a volunteer club to mentor new loans recipients. Club members encourage other women to face challenges, work hard and keep their children in school.

Repayments rates: Loan repayment rates are between 88-90% despite difficult circumstances faced by most women.

Program Impact: In a relatively short span of time, most loan recipients are economically and socially empowered. They are running businesses that help pay for food, rent, school expenses, are financially literate, and enjoy a higher social status. In addition, the children are improving in health, attending school, and families are more knowledgeable about HIV and malaria. 

About Power of Love’s Micro Loans Program

Need and Location: This program is located in Matero - one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero has a population of approximately 250,000 to 275,000 and is characterized with a high incidence of HIV, and unemployment rates upward of 60%. Most residents live on less than a $2 per day – defined as extreme poverty by the UN. Our estimate is that at least 5,000 women in Matero can benefit from a program such as this one.

Typical Beneficiaries: Beneficiaries are women and children as they have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa. Most beneficiaries have no source of income, few marketable skills, have never been to school, and may not know how to read or write. They range in age from 35 to 67 years, and most are single moms/grandmothers caring for multiple orphaned children/grandchildren. Direct beneficiaries are 400 women, and indirect beneficiaries are 2,800 family members as on average each loan recipient cares for seven people out of which 4-5 are children.

Goals: The goal of our micro loans program is to: (i) equip women with the tools they need to run a successful business, (ii) create conditions for women to be socially empowered, and (iii) enable women to gather enough capital and savings so they can continue to run a profitable business even after graduating from the program.

Loan Activities: Loan recipients are provided with business training and a small loan to start a business. Subsequently, they attend weekly meetings, refresher training, and business mentoring sessions. In addition, loan officers visit businesses on-site visits to offer advice on products, display, inventory management and record keeping.  A total of three consecutive loans are provided. These activities increase the probability to business success and, in turn, family sustainability.

Typical Businesses started with loans range from groceries (fruits, cooking oil, eggs, detergent, tea, soft drinks, vegetables, beans, kapenta (dried fish), fresh fish, mealie meal (a Zambian staple), restaurants, hair salon, cosmetics, used clothing, used shoes, used toys, to chitenge (Zambian skirts), etc. More recently, a few women have started selling higher value items such as bed sheets, cosmetics, phone covers, prepaid cell phone cards, wedding accessories, jewelry, blankets, floor polish etc. A more innovative business was started by Betty, (see her story below). She has become an inspiration for the Power of Love team in San Diego.

This program is unique: This program is part of a comprehensive program that includes pediatric HIV care, malaria prevention, and “Safe Park” programs. Since a family can enroll in multiple programs, in addition to learning how to run a business, the women learn how to care for their HIV positive children/family members, the importance of keeping children in school, and HIV and malaria prevention. For example, several families who do not have electricity or were facing power cuts, were provided with solar reading lights so that the children could complete their home work after dark.  This multi-pronged approach significantly increases the loan recipient’s chances of success in business.

Program Activities in 2018

Business training: In 2018, 175 new women completed a four-day business training. This training is participative, hands on, and in the local language as most women have never been to school and many do not know how to read or write. Social issues, possible challenges and how economic independence can lead to empowerment are also discussed.

Goals of this training are to empower women by teaching them how to (i) run a business, (ii) overcome challenges, (iii) work as a team, (iv) run a profitable business, (v) become a responsible borrower, and (vi) develop relationships of mutual support with other women. In addition, trainees get an opportunity to discuss business issues and possible challenges such as the cholera outbreak, with a mentor in the same line of business.

Refresher training: We have learned that ongoing training is critical for the success of our first-time women entrepreneurs. Ninety-three women completed refresher training last June. Goals of this training were to refresh business principles and learn from peers, so they have the skills to continue to run successful businesses even after they graduate from the program. Trainees discussed challenges faced in running businesses, shared experiences, and built partnerships with other business owners. On completion they were enthused to work even harder to make their business a success.

Weekly Support Meetings: Loan recipients meet weekly to make repayments, strengthen relationships with team members, share experiences and knowledge about a variety of challenges such as HIV/AIDS, and build strong social networks. These meetings continue till the women graduate about 20-24 months later.

On-site visits help assess the progress of the women’s businesses. Guidance is provided in book keeping, inventory management, store design, customer service, accounts, etc. In addition, loan officers underscore the importance of keeping children in school, get feedback from loan recipients, and assess impact of program activities.

Recovery of businesses: Most businesses are recovering from the impact of the severe cholera outbreak in Zambia earlier this year.

Impact of Program Activities

Short and Medium Term: Program activities outlined above have resulted in a huge and sustained impact on hundreds of families in our community. These activities help break the vicious circle of low income and education. Our experience over the past 13 years has shown that: loan recipients learn how to run a business and have gathered enough capital to continue running their business in a relatively short (about 12-18 months) span of time; the diet and nutrition of all families improves leading to better health; more than 2500 children have been able to attend school; families are better informed about HIV prevention and care; many women have invested in income earning assets such as an extra room or a plot of land; and loan recipients have built strong social networks. In addition, many loan recipients have become role models and mentors, enjoy a higher status, and most are on the road to self-reliance.

Long term impact: We believe that this program has a long term sustained impact due to:

  • Skills Development: Women learn a variety of business skills that include record keeping (leads to better information on inventory, sales, profits, receivables etc.), and customer service, and operating a bank account.
  • Acquire new habits: Women start saving a small amount each week and some open bank accounts.
  • Better knowledge about HIV and malaria: leads to better health and higher earnings.
  • Built relationships of mutual support: these are helpful in the long run.
  • Change in culture: as men (husbands, sons) support businesses and help with caring for children.
  • Quality of life: Women enjoy a higher status in the community as they share their knowledge, become role models, and demonstrate self-reliance.
  • Stronger community: The community is better equipped to break out of the vicious circle of poverty and low level of education.

Further, long term impact is demonstrated by the fact that, businesses started several years ago, are still running in the community. In addition, more than one-third of graduates have made investments in land, shops, and home extensions so they now have a sustained source of income.

Plans for 2018/19

  • Provide new loans to 50 women in March 2019.
  • Provide larger loan amounts to the next set of loan recipients.
  • Provide business and refresher training to 100-150 new women.
  • Encourage club members of the “Matero Women in Business Club” to mentor an additional 20-25 women in 2019.
  • Track the 400 active businesses intensively to learn from past errors.


Loan recipients continue to face significant challenges. However, loan repayment rates are between 88-90%.  


We measure success by ensuring sustainability of the family and not so much by repayment rates and financial sustainability of our program. As a result, the community has become stronger as can be seen by improved health of families, increase in the number of children in school, reduced stigma associated with HIV, and better information about HIV care and prevention. In addition, women entrepreneurs feel economically and socially empowered; they invest in income earning assets, have built strong social networks, and enjoy a higher status in the community. Overall, this program continues to make a significant and sustained impact on the lives of thousands of community residents.

Thanks for your caring.  We could not have achieved our goals without you.

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