Microloans for Women
Globally, microloans programs have been successful in helping women break the vicious circle of low education and income. These programs provide small loans (without collateral) and training in business skills to women in impoverished communities. Loan funds are used to start small businesses and earnings from these businesses help pay for food, medicines, rent and school fees. Worldwide repayment rates for micro credit vastly exceed that for traditional banking. For stories of women whose lives have been transformed by loans and training, read here.
Can we end poverty? We believe that together we can poverty and hunger. As envisioned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, this is possible by 2030.
Vision, Mission, Goals: Our vision is that vulnerable women, living in impoverished communities impacted by HIV, are empowered and famileis are sustaianable and more self-reliant. Our mission is to create a community of successful women entrepreneurs. To achieve this mission, we launched a women's empowerment program in an impoverished neighborhood in Lusaka, Zambia. The goals of our women's empowerment are: (i) equip women with the tools to run a successful business, (ii) create conditions for women to be socially empowered, and (iii) ensure that the women have gathered enough capital and savings so they can continue to operate a profitable business even after graduating from the program.
Location: This program is located in Matero and neighboring compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero is one of the largest and poorest compounds and is characterized with a high incidence of HIV, AIDS, and malaria and an unemployment rate upwards of 60%. Most residents live on less than $2 per day - defined as extreme poverty by the UN.
Need: Children living with HIV need proper nutrition and care. Unfortunately the AIDS epidemic has resulted in millions of children being orphaned and has destroyed the social fabric in Africa. Many households are headed by grandmothers who are left with the responsibility of caring for five or more orphans. Most of these grandmothers have never been to school, have very few marketable skills, and no permanent source of income. Many women are living with HIV themselves and need support. Provision of business training and loans goes a long way in empowering women so that they can take better of their families. In 2021, 380 women receieved business training and have started small businesses in their communities. In addition, 80 women received new loans, most are first time entrepreneurs. These new businesses will help pay for food. medicines rent and school expenses for families, provide employment, and increase choices for community members.
Program mechanics, are designed to maximize business success and a positive impact on the lives of loan recipients. In addition, to the ongoing business monitoring and training, all loan recipients were provdied with clean cooking stoves this year. The women love their new stoves as they are saving money on fuel, cooking speed is higher, and smoke generation is minimal. We expect some women to use these stoves as an income generating tool.
Our Program is Unique?
Our program is unique as it is designed for women who are taking care of HIV+ family members, and may be living with HIV themselves. Second, it is completely integrated with our pediatric HIV care, malaria prevention, and Safe Park programs, so we are able to support a family in multiple ways. For example, micro loans recipients are encouraged to enroll their HIV+ children in our pediatric HIV care program. If enrolled, the child receives food, medicine and a package of life-saving healthcare services. In addition, the loan recipient is provided with mosquito bed nets to keep the family free from malaria, and the child is encouraged to participate in our “Safe Park” program. Supporting first time women entrepreneurs in multiple ways also increases the probability of success of their business and leads to higher repayment rates. Third, business training and ongoing training and support is provided till the loan recipient graduates, about 24-30 months after enrollment.
Our women’s empowerment program continues to benefit more than 500 vulnerable women and their families (about 3,500 adults and children) in Zambia. Program activities include the provision of loans, business training, and ongoing business monitoring to vulnerable women impacted by HIV. Since March 2020 clean cooking stoves and education on COVID was also provided. All 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. Trainings (including PPE) are conducted in a safe manner to prevent the spread of COVID. In 2020, more than 400 women received training in business. Each woman is eligible for three consecutive loans, ongoing training, and support. Earnings from businesses started with the help of loans pay for food, rent, medicines, and school. As a result, there is a demonstrable improvement in the health of families, more than 900 children were able to attend school, the women are more financially literate and there is an improvement in gender equality. Program activities help communities break the vicious cycle of poverty and low education and enjoy a higher quality of life.
In 2019, we saw a continued improvement in the quality of life of women enrolled as a result of the following program activities: (i) 407 new women were provided with business training, 400 women with refresher trainings, and 400 women with business mentoring training, (ii) All women meet weekly to make repayments, learn from other business owners, and build social networks, (iii) 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. (iv) Members of a volunteer communtiy club mentor new loan recipients to face challenges, work hard and keep their children in school and (vi) loan recipients have become role models and enjoy a higher status in their community. Beneficiaries are more than 400 women and their families or approximately 3000 community residents.
Loan repayment rates are between 88-90% despite difficult circumstances faced by most women enrolled in this program.
The following program activities were completed in 2018: (i) Added 50 new loans to bring the total number of active loans to 400 that benefit approximately 2800 family members, (ii) 175 new women were provided with business training and 93 women with refresher trainings, (iii) All women meet weekly to make repayments, learn from other business owners, and build social networks, (iv) 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. (v) Members of a volunteer communtiy club mentor new loan recipients to face challenges, work hard and keep their children in school and (vi) loan recipients have become role models and enjoy a higher status in their community.
Loan repayment rates are between 88-90% despite difficult circumstances faced by most women. Read more
Exciting Developments in 2017
In 2017, we completed the following program activities: (i) New loans provided to 53 women bringing the total number of loans to 400, (ii) A record number of 257 women were provided with business training, (iii) 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, (iv) Businesses are monitired as all businesses are visited on site by the loans officer to provide business advice on display, encourage maintenance of accounts, book keeping, inventory management etc., (v) Refresher training was provided to a group of 50 loan recipients, (vi) A few women have formed a club to mentor new loans recipients, women whose businesses may be struggling, and women facing challenges in running their businesses. Read more
Exciting Developments in 2016
In 2016, we were able to provide 100 new loans to first time women entrepreneurs and business training to 150 first time women entrepreneurs. A record number of 150 new businesses were launched in 2016. As a result of this program, more than 600 businesses are running in the community that add value by providing convenience (in terms of location, and quanity purchased), and diversity (businesses like hair salons are new to the community). Read more..
To date, POL has provided more than 4500 loans to women impacted/infected with HIV in Zambia. Repayment rates are between 90-92%.
Earnings from businesses started with loans enable women to pay for food, medicines, rent, and school expenses. Over a period of 20-24 months, most loan recipients have accumulated enough capital and expertise to continue to run successful businesses. More specifically, program impact is as follows:
- Diet and Health: The diet of all families improves significantly after a few months on the program. Most women report that they can afford 2-3 meals a day, as opposed to a single meal before they started their businesses. Better nutrition leads to improved health of the children, all of which results in increased school attendance and performance.
- Household Purchases: Most women are able to purchase household items like TVs, pots and pans, and toys for their children.
- Education: Earnings from businesses help pay for school expenses (i.e. books, school bags, shoes, and uniforms). In addition, loan recipients learn the importance of keeping children in school and are motivated to work hard to provide continuous education for their children.
- Savings: The women start saving a small amount each week. Before joining this program, most women did not have any savings and less than 5% were saving via bank accounts. After a few months on the program most women have learnt to save a small amount each week and about 40% start savings bank accounts.
- Improved Location of Business: As the women progress successfully through loan cycles, they may move from selling from their homes to renting a shop in marketplaces with higher foot traffic.
- Capital Acquisition: Many women are able to increase their capital; this helps to sustain their business even after they have been weaned off the program.
- Business Expansion: Most women are able to expand their business by increasing the variety of merchandise they can offer.
- Role Models: Women become role models by sharing their knowledge with others in the community. In addition, several men come forward to help run the business or take care of children.
- Prevention of HIV: As a result of discussions during weekly meetings, women have increased knowledge about HIV prevention and care. After a few months many women come forward for testing for HIV which is the first step toward HIV prevention and spread.
Overall, loan recipients are happier and look forward to a bright future due to improved health of their families, children attending school, and economic and social empowerment. Unlike a commercial loan program, we measure success in terms of family sustainability and not program sustainability. For stories of a few first time entreprenures click here.
To learn more about the impact over the last seven years see below:
Power of Love’s micro loans program was launched in 2005 as a response to the devastation caused by HIV and AIDS in Zambia. For program impact, read here; and for program mechanics, read here. At this time we have 400 women running successful businesses. Direct beneficiaries are over 2,800 children and adults as each woman cares for seven people on average. Indirect beneficiaries are an additional 2000 people as the women share their knowledge with others and encourage them to work hard to support themselves. In addition, more than 400 graduates are running businesses that provide employment opportunities to community residents. Most program beneficiaries are vulnerable to poverty and sickness themselves while caring for HIV+ family members. With a little support, they can provide proper care that is essential in the community response to HIV and AIDS.
For 2020, our plan is to provide new loans to 70 women, business and refresher trainings to 350-400 women, and business mentoring to all 470 loan recipients.