Micro Loans For Women Impacted by HIV/AIDS, Zambia

 
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Today I would like you to meet Agness and share her story. Agness is one of the ladies in our micro loans program who received business training and a small loan to start a grocery business a few years back. She worked hard and her business did well. Agness repaid her loan in full, expanded her business and continues to work hard and expand her business every day. She now boasts of a refrigerator and a freezer to store soft drinks, and meat for her customers and her store carries several high value items like light fixtures and hair styling accessories. Agness is our hero and a role model to hundreds of women in her community. 

Last month, Agness's story was chosen to be published by the UN Women's website. She is our hero and a role model for hundreds of women in our community in Zambia. I am sure you will love this story.

Agness runs her business in Matero - one of the poorest and largest compounds in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero is characterized with a high incidence of HIV, malaria and TB and unemployment rates upwards of 60%. Most residents in this community are poor and live on less than $2 per day. They are able to purchase grocery items in very small quantities and cannot travel far to shop as they have no means of transportation. Businesses like Agness's are a valuable resource for members of her community.

There are several women like Agness in our micro loans program who are working hard at their businesses despite their difficult circumstances. Earnings from their businesses enable them to take better care of their families and their businesses provide a valuable service to residents of their community. In addition, they have become role models, teachers, and mentors for other women (and men) in the community.

Please donate generously so we can continue to empower women by providing them an opportunity to learn a marketable skill, run a business, and keep their children in school. Your donations will help us provide business training, small loans, business mentoring and monitoring to women impacted by HIV, and AIDS in Zambia.

Thanks for empowering women in Zambia.  

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Happy Dad's day! Help us celebrate by supporting a Zambian family impacted by HIV start a business. Your support will provide micro loans, business training and business mentoring to new women entrepreneurs so that they can take better care of their families and keep their children in school. Since our conversation last month, we are happy to report that all 50 women who received new loans are business training are busy running their new businesses and taking care of their families. At this time, we have 275 women running successful to moderately successful businesses in our community in Lusaka, Zambia. Kudos to you - we could not have done this without you.  

The vision behind our micro loans program is that businesses started with the help of loans continue to operate and expand long after the loan has been repaid. We are in contact with several women who graduated from this program a few years back as they come back to visit and guide women currently on the program. Here is a heartwarming and inspiring story of one such entrepreneur.

About Jane (name changed): Jane is one of the oldest beneficiaries in our micro loans program. She was provided with business training and a loan about 7 years back. Her business continues to operate in the community and has grown considerably from a small vegetable stand to a shop with a variety of higher value items like detergent, cooking oil, eggs, mealie meal (a Zambian staple), soap, and other grocery items. 

Jane is living her dream of owning and running her shop and her children have finished school. She continues to work hard to make her business grow by adding new items. In addition, she comes back often to visit (even though she graduated in 2011) and continues to mentor current and new loan beneficiaries. She encourages and motivates the women to work hard, make loan repayments on time, save a small amount each week, and expand their businesses. Jane is an inspiration to the women as she has demonstrated that hard work and dedication can lead to success and self-reliance.

Jane’s Story in her own words: I am 62 years old, married with four children of my own and five dependents. I have known Power of Love’s program for the last seven years as I received my first loan in 2008. After completing business training I started selling different types of vegetables. I loved running my business and worked hard as my dream was to build a shop at home. I wanted to pay for school expenses so that my children can attend and complete school.

Before I joined the program life was difficult. We were not able to eat more than one meal per day as there are 11 people in my household, and on many days we did not know where our next meal would come from.

I received my first loan in 2008 and four more loans over the next three years. I worked hard to repay the loans and learned to save a small amount each week. With each subsequent loan I expanded my business by adding different kinds of vegetables, fruits, rice, mealie meal (a Zambian staple), soap, other grocery items, toys, hair care products etc. I graduated from this program three years back but like to go back as the loan officer, has become my friend. Esther helped me during the first few months of starting my business as I had never sold anything before joining this program.

I like to talk to the women who receive loans and tell them my story so that they know that it is possible to eat three meals a day, keep children healthy and in school due to a better diet and health. I ask the new loan beneficiaries to work hard to make the repayments so they can get a second and third loan and eventually run their businesses on their own without the help of the program. Also, I like talking to other women in the community and teach them what I know.

I am running my shop without a loan now. I have my own shop and have realized my dream. I even have a refrigerator in my shop for soft drinks.  I am very happy I got to know about this program as life has been easier since I started my own business. My children are healthy and all four have finished school. The younger children (her dependents) are in school.

Women like Jane inspire us every day and continue to inspire new loan beneficiaries. In addition to running and growing their businesses they have become role models and mentor the new women who join the program.

Your generosity has helped several hundred women start and run successful businesses so that they can take better care of their families. We hope we can count on your continued support.

Thanks for your caring and compassion.

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Happy Mother's Day! 

Thanks as always for empowering women impacted by HIV and AIDS in Zambia. With your help we can continue to provide micro loans, business training and business mentoring to new women entrepreneurs, so they can take better care of their families and keep their children in school.

Our Loans Program is Expanding

Since our last conversation in March 2015, we were able to provide 50 new loans and business training to new women entrepreneurs in our community. Over the course of five days, 50 women went through an intensive business training course, at the end which they presented a business plan to qualify for a loan to start a business. At this time, the women are busy running their new businesses and providing for their families.

With the addition of these 50 loans we now have 275 women running successful to moderately successful businesses in our community in Lusaka, Zambia.  

Testimonial

Before providing new loans last month we wanted to assess the impact of our loans program on women who were provided with loans 3-4 years back and to learn from their experiences. Accordingly, we had a long conversation with Amy (name changed) who was among the first set of women to join the program. Women like Amy inspire us every day and continue to inspire new loan beneficiaries. In addition to running and growing their businesses they have become role models and mentor the new women who join the program.

About Amy: Amy graduated from our loans program three years back and is continuing to run the business she started with the help of a micro loan. All her children are in school and she is able to take good care of her family. After completing her loan repayments she continues to come back to mentor new women beneficiaries.

Amy’s story in her own words: I am a 45 year old widow. There are seven people in my household – five children (two are my own), my sister and myself. My sister and the other two children are dependent on me.

I joined Power of Love’s micro loans program and received business training and a small loan to start a business. Before I joined the program, life was difficult as I did not have a means for taking care of my family and paying for school expenses for the children. After I finished a week long business training I started a business selling dressed chicken and cupcakes in my community of Matero. I worked hard, made my loan repayments and saved a small amount each week. My business did well. I was able to take better care of my family (we started eating 2-3 meals per day as compared to just one meal or less per day), and pay for school expenses for all five children. During my training and weekly meeting with the loan officer and other womaen, I learnt the importance of keeping children in school. I know that education is important for getting ahead in life. All my children are attending school and my oldest graduated from High School and has enrolled in the University.

Over time, I expanded my business by purchasing a sewing machine with the next loan. I love working for myself, feel empowered and am confident for a bright future for myself and my family. 

After I received a third loan and paid it off (about 19 months after I received my first loan), I graduated from Power of Love’s loans program. Since then, I have been encouraging other women in the community, to start a business, and take their first steps toward self-reliance. In addition, I regularly mentor women who have receive loans and business training from Power of Love, to work hard at their business and make it grow. The Power of Love loan officer tells me that I am one of the best mentors and I am happy for this.

My dream was to have a shop of my own. I continued to save and expand my business. Over the last few years, I saved up enough to build a shop and sell groceries from my shop. At this time, my shop has soap, cooking oil, eggs, candy, bread, cereal, beauty supplies, cookies etc. My dream has come true. I have paid for my oldest child to enroll in the University and have been able to electrify my shop. I will continue to encourage other women to start a business, work hard, and keep their children in school.

Thanks for giving me a chance to be economically independent. 

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Micro Loans Empower Women

Micro loans programs provided to women to start small businesses have proven to be one of the most effective means of empowering women and teaching them self-reliance. By learning basic business practices, new women entrepreneurs are better equipped to run small businesses and are therefore able to take better care of their families. Power of Love’s micro loans program is located in the community of Matero, in Lusaka, Zambia. Matero is one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka, with a population of approximately 85,000. This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV and AIDS (prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49) and an unemployment rate upward of 60%.  As a result, most people are poor and live on less than $1 per day.  

Women in Matero regularly provide care for one or more sick family members. Loans and business training provided to women have enabled them to excel in this difficult environment by learning marketable skills and running a profitable small business, thereby supporting all dependents in the household.

Impact of Our Loans Program

Women who have graduated from our micro loans program have gained valuable experience and expertise in their line of business. They work hard to provide for their families and have gained self-confidence and become role models for others in the community. A majority of the women have started saving (either at home or via a bank account) and several women have found innovative ways to increase earnings from their businesses.

Most women in our loans program are able to take better care of their families in terms of nutrition and health, pay for school expenses, and understand the importance of keeping children in school. In addition, we are seeing a change in the attitude of the women - they are confident, have a plan for their future, and are on the path to self-reliance (both economic and social). More deatil on program impact is provided below.

Our Program is Unique

Loans provided to POL micro loan participants have immediate impact on the entire family as the program is completely integrated with Power of Love’s pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs. As such, the pediatric HIV care and malaria prevention programs provide micro loan recipients with the extra support they need (via food, medicines, packages of health care services and mosquito bed nets) while they learn how to run their businesses.  This significantly increases their chance of success in business.

Women and children have been disproportionately impacted by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa; hence, they are the main beneficiaries of POL’s comprehensive programs. The vision behind all of our programs is to strengthen communities impacted by HIV and AIDS by empowering women.

Profiles of Women Entrepreneurs

Micro loan recipients range in age from 33 to 65 years old. Of these women, 70% are single or widowed. On average each woman cares for a total of 6 or more people, of which 5 are usually children. Prior to receiving a micro loan, fewer than 5% of these women had bank accounts.

The vast majority of the women use loan funds to start new businesses and or expand existing businesses. Businesses started with these loans are diverse and range from selling bananas along the roadside to brick-and-mortar stores selling cell phone chargers and accessories. Most businesses sell groceries, used shoes, toys, clothing, dried fish, charcoal, popcorn, mealie meal (a Zambian staple) etc. Many women distribute fish to local restaurants, fry donut-like snacks for stores, or make their own floor wax.

Direct Impact of our Loans Program in 2014

  1. Diet and Nutrition: Almost all 225 women on our program are able to provide two or more meals per day for their families as compared to one meal per day before they joined our program. 
  2. Schooling: Most women have been able to support their children with school requirements such as school fees, books, uniforms, shoes, pen/pencils, and transport money to those who go to school by public transport. In 2014, as a result of this program, 22 children were enrolled at the University, 123 children went back to school as their caregivers were able to pay school fees and/or school expenses, and 52 children have started grade one this month as their parents have saved money for their school requirements. In addition, 156 children will be able to continue their education as their caregivers were able to pay for school expenses (uniforms, shoes, books, and stationary). 
  3. Household purchases: A majority of the women were able to purchase household items such as TV stands, pressure cooker, Television, radios, DVD Machines, dinner set, cooking pot etc. These purchases would not have been possible without earnings from their businesses.
  4. Savings: About 175 women have been saving via bank accounts and an additional 40 women are saving at home. We are proud of these women who are saving a certain amount each week as this is a habit that is new to them. The amount saved each week is small, but it helps the women continue to run their business once they are weaned off the loan program, and take care of unexpected expenses.
  5. Capital Acquisition:
    • A group of 16 women pooled their savings to rent a piece of land for growing cotton and beans. These ladies got the idea from their mentors who themselves had purchased a piece of land for farming purposes and are doing well.
    • An additional 16 women have bought a piece of land each for purposes of constructing a house (for rent or as a home for themselves) as and when they have funds. Two of the ladies have laid the foundation for construction.
  6.  Business Expansion: Out of the total group of 225 women, 187 women have expanded their businesses and increased their capital by 50-60%. These dynamic ladies have invested funds in projects and products that will help sustain their businesses even after they are weaned off the loans program after three loan cycles. Moreover, they will continue to mentor new loan beneficiaries and have become role models for others in the community.
  7.  Prevention of HIV: As a result of discussions during weekly meetings 117 women have come forward for voluntary testing for HIV. This is encouraging as testing is the first step toward prevention of HIV.

Expected Impact in the Next 12-24 Months

In the next few months we expect more women to:

  • move out of selling out of their homes to a rented shop in the community marketplace which has higher foot traffic,
  • expand their business with the same type of goods,
  • expand and diversify into new line/lines of business,
  • purchase a shop instead of selling from a rented space.

The impact of our program goes beyond the economic benefits of increasing income and earnings in the short term. The long term impact of this program is to teach women how to build and run a successful business, save via bank accounts, and have the necessary capital to take charge of their lives and first steps toward self-reliance.

Next Steps

Our focus for 2015 and beyond is to continue to empower women by teaching them basic business practices and helping them run a profitable business so that they can become self-reliant. In addition, we are planning on providing 50 new loans in the spring of 2015.

Conclusion

Most women in our loans program are able to take better care of their families in terms of nutrition and health, pay for school expenses, and understand the importance of keeping children in school. In addition, we are seeing a change in the attitude of the women - they are confident, have a plan for their future, and are on the path to self-reliance (both economic and social).

Micro loans successfully enable women to engage in self-employment projects and set themselves on the road to self-reliance. These loans help a poor household meet basic needs and protect against unexpected expenses. For most women, there is a dramatic improvement in their standard of living and many are able to finally break the cycle of poverty. Finally, there is an improvement in gender inequality, economic welfare, and self-empowerment. We are confident that the outcomes of this program will be sustainable and permanent.  

Thanks for your support.

Loan recipient at her used shoes store
Loan recipient at her used shoes store

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Thanks for supporting Power of Love’s micro loans program that empowers women by providing them with business training and small loans. Once the women complete their training and receive a loan, they start a business and work hard to make it grow. Our loan officers advice the women and monitor the businesses via weekly loan meetings, field visits, refresher training and business mentoring sessions. Continuous monitoring of businesses has helped the women run their businesses well and keep on track with repayments. 

Our Wish List and Request for Donations: At this time, we are raising funds to provide 50 new loans in the spring of 2015. Please donate generously so that women like Julie and Maureen (read their stories below) can break the cycle of poverty, learn a marketable skill, and keep their children in school. A single donation from you helps several women as loan capital funds go into a revolving fund and once a loan is repaid it becomes available for provision to a new woman entrepreneur.    

Power of Love’s micro loans program is located in the community of Matero - one of the largest and poorest compounds in Lusaka with a population of approximately 80,000-85,000 people. This community is characterized by a high incidence of HIV/AIDS (prevalence rate of 14% among adults aged 15-49), and unemployment rates upwards of 60%. As a result most people are poor and live on less than $1 per day. Given this difficult environment, women benefit from learning a marketable skill and running a profitable small business. Most women beneficiaries are able to break out of the cycle of poverty and a lack of marketable skills so that they are able to improve the diet of their families and pay for school expenses for their children.

We would like you to meet Julie and Maureen, who received business training and a small loan to start a business. At this time, both women are running successful businesses and are making repayments on their second loan having successfully paid off their first loan. All women in our program receive three loans. By the end of the third loan, most businesses are doing well and the women have built up a small capital base so that they are on the path to self-reliance. Julie and Maureen, like most of the 230 women in our loans program are working hard every day to expand their businesses to provide for their families, and keep their children in school.

Julie (not her real name) is a widow who cares for her old parents and three grandchildren. With her first loan she started a business selling vegetables. Her business did well and she was able to pay for food and rent for her family. Once Julie had repaid her first loan, she received a second loan with which she expanded her business by adding used clothing to her vegetable shop.

At this time, Julie has been able to pay for school expenses for her three grandchildren, and is able to pay for medical expenses for her parents. She is happy that she got an opportunity to learn how to run a business, meet other women like her so she can learn from them, and received funds to start a business. She wants to continue to work hard to expand her business so that she can continue to put a smile on the faces of her old parents and orphaned grandchildren.    

Maureen (not her real name) lost her husband to AIDS and is the sole provider for her four children. Before Maureen joined Power of Love’s loans program, she was having a difficult time as she was unable to pay for rent and school expenses for her children. Once Maureen joined our loans program, she received business training and a loan to start a fruit stand. Her fruit stand did well and she was able to pay for rent, school expenses and repay her off the first loan. With a second loan, she purchased a used popcorn machine. With earnings from her fruit and popcorn stand she is able to pay rent, school expenses, and save a small amount each week.

Maureen is very happy taking care of her family with earnings from her business as this has helped her improve her quality of life. She is thankful for this program as it had taught her how to be self-reliant.    

Thanks for teaching economic independence and self-reliance to new women entrepreneurs in Zambia.

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Organization

Project Leader

Alka Subramanian

Founder/Director
San Diego, CA United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Micro Loans For Women Impacted by HIV/AIDS, Zambia