The ongoing pandemic has made life more difficult for vulnerable communities globally. In resource poor communities, more families face food insecurity due to the impact of COVID, and other factors such as climate change and conflict. For the last 18 months our goal has been to keep families in our program educated on COVID prevention and healthy, and to ensure that children attend school/continue with schoolwork. Our micro loans program provides an opportunity for vulnerable women to run successful businesses, earn a stable income, build assets, and keep children in school. Currently, we have 2,000 women (current enrollees and graduates) who are running successful businesses in their communities. These businesses have become a valuable part of the community fabric as they provide services that may have not been in existence before such as a new hair salon that sells hair accessories or braids hair at affordable prices close to home. Also, most businesses provide employment to family members. These first-time entrepreneurs inspire us every day with their positive attitude and their creative solutions to overcome challenges. All of them are heroes. Given below are two stories of women who are proud business owners on the path to self-reliance.
Mary (name changed) is a widow and the sole caregiver for her five children. Life became exceedingly difficult after her husband passed away as he was the only earning family member. Two of her children had to drop out of school, and her son became extremely sick. Her son was enrolled in Power of Love’s pediatric HIV care program and his health stabilized soon after. Being a part of a health care program gave Mary hope, and subsequently she enrolled in our micro loans program. In November 2020, Mary received business training and loan funds to open a hair salon as she has expertise in braiding hair. She located her salon near a bus station with high traffic and visibility (as advised while building a business plan). Her business is doing well, and she is on track with repayments. At a recent visit to her salon, Mary explained that she is planning to increase savings to purchase more hair supplies. She has continued working hard through COVID and was able to purchase more braids for reselling. Her children are back in school, she is on track with repayments, and proud of working for herself. In her words, “running a salon has made life easy”. As of June 2021, Mary had opened a second salon, and paid for her niece to complete a beautician’s course. Her niece is helping her run the second salon though business is slow due to COVID. Her son is much improved in health. Mary says that she does not have to depend on anyone for food or rent, she is her own master, and her quality of life has improved.
Emma (name changed) is the sole provider for her seven dependents. Before she enrolled in Power of Love’s micro loans program, life was hard as she had no source of income. After completing business training, she received a loan and started selling used clothing. She sought advice from the loans officer regularly to develop business skills and add to her capital and inventory. Over the past few months, she increased sales and revenues considerably, is on track with repayments on her third loan, and working hard to expand her business. She is happy as she can provide three meals a day for her family. She is thankful for the support and says that due to her business success she can smile as her family is able to pay for rent, food, medicines, and school expenses.
It is the positive attitude of the women that makes this program unique. Each woman is special and inspires us every day.